About The Syllabary

The Syllabary

The Syllabary, completed in 2021,  consists of 1319 empty sounds and 2281 spoken parts of 1 to 37 lines in length, each based on a cluster of between 1 and 47 monosyllabic words. The program chooses an initial text at random and leads the viewer to the next in any of three directions.

The Syllabary presents in three different ways:

  1. As an audiovisual program, freely available on line (see comments below).
  2. in bespoke printed sequences of 101 texts.
  3. as a physical installation, akin to the arrivals board in a station or airport.

Anyone interested in a printed selection should write to Molecular Press, stating which text they would like their selection to begin or to end with; the sequence is then determined by an algorithm. Molecular Press has yet to determine the cost; it will be something around 25 scoots for a print run of one.

As to the physical installation, the artist collaborating on the project does site-specific work from modest to massive in size; practical suggestions are welcome.

The fourth and final phase of The Syllabary was launched in 2018. Immediate responses:

What an amazing spindrift of poems — or do I mean a spinifex or a spinnaker of them? Voiced or fricative, it’s great to hear your voice cast from Geneva to Glasgow. (JMcG)

Ton projet « Syllabary » est magnifique, je continue à penser qu’il peut être exposé dans un musée d’art contemporain. J’espère que cela se concrétise un jour pas trop lointain. (GP)

Amazing, Peter.  I’m gobsmacked!  I love the “safe-cracker” graphics!  What combination would lead me to the poem that you wrote expanding on Wandering Aengus by Yeats?  Also how do you slow it down…. I caught what looked like a fantastic poem with a line about Stalin’s engineers building the roads eastward and then couldn’t get it back in view to read it properly…. (AR)

 Je me suis réveillée ce matin avec en tête des sonorités étranges et intraduisibles qui ressemblaient à un poème du Syllabaire. Profitant d’un rayon de lumière, elles se sont matérialisées en un gant jeté là mystérieusement, attendant d’être ramassé. Qu’y a-t-il de plus bizarre qu’un gant… J’hésitais un peu, comme on hésite avant de partir pour certaines aventures, chasses à la baleine, ou voyages dans le cosmos. (MS)

I checked into The Syllabary today, Peter, got the baby deflating like a soufflé and Cathie going up and a CalMac boat… all good! I really like this latest incarnation, think you’ve nailed the presentation now.(RA)

On a longuement écouté: c’est vraiment superbe, bravo! Bien sûr, il me manque du vocabulaire, mais ce n’est pas grave (pour l’instant), la sonorité fonctionne super bien: tu as une voix et une diction incroyable! Il faudra que tu m’expliques 2-3 trucs “conceptuels”… si c’est explicable, bien sûr! (JPhJ)

Congratulations on your mind-expanding oeuvre.  I listened to it entranced for a long while.  Beautifully done, but far out of my ordinary fare.  I am nevertheless pleased to be exposed to your imaginative adventures. (FB)

J’ai visionné le Syllabary rapidement aujourd’hui sur ordinateur et sur mon iphone, ça marche et c’est superbe! c’est très beau, oui, mais je n’ai pas encore eu le temps de laisser mon temps se synchroniser à celui de tes textes, je ferai ça demain, avec grand plaisir. (JD)

Peter, I logged on and started enjoying it. Then I thought I’d like to see if I could slow it down or stop it for a moment, because it takes a while to appreciate each poem. I saw ‘Information on the Syllabary’ at the bottom left, but that didn’t seem to link to anything. So I tried clicking on the dials at the bottom right, and dragging them round. That occasionally stopped the movement between syllables. I don’t know whether I caused what happened next, or whether it was going to happen anyway. The movement accelerated. The dials didn’t wait till you’d finished each poem, so one poem would start on top of another. Then after a while the whole thing just stopped. Was all this planned? (JB)

vraiment j’aime beaucoup beaucoup – à la fois le principe, un peu wija,
et puis aussi les textes, longs, courts, le mélange des langues, les textes eux-mêmes plongée, carottage entre sensation et histoires, et puis cet amusement, parfois triste, souvent là… (AK)

The wheels at the bottom of the program screen can be used to dial up a syllable, though this takes skill: you have to choose the exact moment between the end of one sounding and the beginning of the next. Good luck.

An interview with the author, in Macau:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajEKMk97Hj4

The Syllabary has morphed in various media. Olga Kokcharova has worked with the author on Cleikit, a phonetic version for sixty voices.

Yuri Vaschenko provided structural illustrations for the second edition:

It was launched in Glasgow:

One cell of the third edition responds to a drawing by Clara Brasca (the text was translated into Italian by Mariarosaria Cardines):

Other cells are associated with photographic images: