Final Project: Phatic

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Jasmine Hu
“Escoutatz!” the troubadour Marcabru seems to shout directly at us from the page in his song “Dirai vos senses doptanssa”- “Listen!” For us today, the command is a window into the original performative context of 12th century troubadour lyric, a vestigial organ from times when singer and audience experienced lyric as an act of bodily presence. The command – an example of what linguist Roman Jakobson called a “phatic function,” a message that “serves to establish, prolong, or discontinue communication” - at once evokes the feeling of performance, making us “listen,” while simultaneously reminding us that we receive lyric and words like “escoutatz” in a vastly different way from their original audience. When we perform our own internal readings of text, are we “listening” in the same way? How does the medium of a poem change it? Can a text shout? My project attempts to explore the dimensions and difficulties of accessing a troubadour song today through text, and the relationship between performance and text. I wanted to visually demonstrate the process of reading Marcabru’s words and how the process of reading allows a reader to access other worlds. The character of my video is a Marcabruian “noisemaker,” the crude figures of false love that Marcabru so often criticizes in his songs. He reads Marcabru’s song while listening to contemporary music. Gradually, though, the phatic function, in its repeated insistence, forces the music behind the poem’s own rhythm. “Escoutatz,” through repetition, transforms into a form of sound emptied of meaning, evoking the performative context even within the character’s own internal reading. Through techniques like timelapse photography and film reversal, I wanted to demonstrate poetic sound as a force of creation, potent even through text rather than performance, forming space and time within the character’s mind.