Dissertation Advisor(s): Charles Bernstein
"Speech Labs: Language Experiments, Early Poetry Audio Archives, and the Poetic Record"
Co-Director of the PennSound Archive, IT Director at Penn's School of Arts & Sciences
Chris Mustazza's work centers on the poetry audio archive, from its birth in the early 1930s through its contemporary manifestation in digital collections like PennSound. Most recently, Chris has been working to digitize and contextualize The Contemporary Poets Series, a collection of poetry recordings made at Columbia University in the 1930s and '40s and recorded on aluminum records. From this series, he has edited collections of recordings of James Weldon Johnson, Vachel Lindsay, Harriet Monroe, and Gertrude Stein. His work has been covered by the Harriet blog of the Poetry Foundation and by SAS Frontiers, and his critical introduction to the Vachel Lindsay recordings was awarded the 2014 Sweeten Prize for best essay in American Literature by a graduate student. His essay on the James Weldon Johnson recordings will be presented at the 2015 American Literature Association annual conference and will appear in the next issue of the journal Oral Tradition. Chris' work has also appeared in Jacket2, The Notre Dame Review, Empty Mirror, and The Volta Blog.
Chris is also interested in experimental digital analyses of poetry audio and edits Clipping, a commentary series in Jacket2 on the topic. He pursues questions around the materiality of recording media, as well as how digital visualizations of poetry audio can help to explicate performances. He is interested in pursuing these questions of what Tanya Clement has termed "distant listening" on both small and large scales, including using high-performance computing technology to analyze large corpora of poetry audio. He will speak about this work at the 2016 MLA Convention, on a presidential theme panel with Charles Bernstein, Tanya Clement, Steve McLaughlin, and Ken Sherwood.
His dissertation project, tentatively titled The Birth of the Poetry Audio Archive, explores the beginnings of the practice of recording poets reading their work in the US. By putting into dialogue the first poetry audio archives in the US, The Speech Lab Recordings at Columbia and The Vocarium Recordings at Harvard (both started in the early 1930s) and comparing these to precursors in Europe (e.g. Les Archives de la Parole in France), the project seeks to theorize and historicize a practice that reaches into the present, in contemporary archives like PennSound. In support of this work, Chris has been selected for a creative grant from Harvard University's Woodberry Poetry Room, where he will conduct research on the Vocarium recordings during the 2015-6 academic year.
Chris would be willing to speak with you at great length about just about any topic, but for particular prolixity, please bring up the topics of poetry, classic video games, drums & percussion, food & wine, or soccer.