Three PFR-3 Poems by Jackson Mac Low

(2017) for percussion quartet and speaker

These three pieces are based some of the earliest computer generated poetry. These poems were composed at Information International, Inc. with the aid of a programmable film reader connected to a DEC PDP-9 computer and peripherals in 1969. There are a number of algorithmic processes involved in their composition. The actual text supplied by Mac Low consists of single or double lines or  “messages” of less than 48 characters.

Since Mac Low both studied with John Cage and was known to derive poetry from music, it seemed an interesting project to return the favor. Of the three poems I selected, I used a variety of mappings based mostly on letters, but also stanza position and indentation. The poems are very straightforwardly mapped onto some musical parameters—like pitch, duration, and dynamics—and less straightforwardly mapped onto others, such as gesture or movement. The result is a simulacrum of not only language, but an odd sort of mis-representation of the experience of reading an odd sort of poem.

1. Click here for score of  From “From ‘David'”


2. Click here for score of From “From  ‘South'”

As this piece was developed in close collaboration with an undergraduate ensemble, many changes were made to the score. This version of score does not match this particular recording.


3. Click here for score of From “From ‘The'”