Glossolalia: Speaking In Tongues

Part of the UbuWeb Ethnopoetics collection.

Glossolalia: Speaking In Tongues, 8:32

Glossolalia: Speaking In Tongues

The phenomenon as such traces back to early Christian accounts of spontaneous eruptions of old and new languages among Galilean disciples of the new religion. That practices resembling glossolalia or "speaking in tongues" have something like a global distribution is by now quite clear, as is their relation to the work of poets and of other lattterday avantgardists. Folkloric recoveries, as far back as the nineteenth century, began to reveal forms of languaging – as incantations, spells, etc.—that were later to influence and confirm experimental attempts to break through the limitations of conventional syntax and meaning. Among the essential modernists, the Russian Futurist Velimir Khlebnikov made the most direct connection to the Christian practice of "tongues." In A Night in Gallicia, he appropriated elements from a previously collected pair of wordless northern Russian incantations – a form of "magic words" ("the sacred language of paganism") that he also tied to the Orthodox use of Old Slavonic and the Catholic use of Latin, as languages like his own experimental zaum that were or had become, literally, "beyond understanding." And in the same vein, Hugo Ball, about the first performance of his wordless poems: "That was when I noticed that my voice, as if I had no choice, was taking on the cadence of a priestly lamentation, like the chanting of the mass in catholic churches east and west. I don’t know how the idea came to me, but I started to chant the vowel sequences like church recitative. … And then the lights went out and I was carried off the stage, my body bathed in sweat and like a magic bishop."

In the present instance, the work presented is a collage of religious performances recorded in Oklahoma in the 1980s. It should be noted that the sounding of the glossolalia is not simply ecstatic or spontaneous but can be deliberately practiced and refined. Like any complex act of poetry.

Addendum. "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. / And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. / And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. / And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other rongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (The Acts of the Apostles, 2:1-4) -- Jerome Rothenberg

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