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The Sound of Nonsense


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Table of Contents

Introduction 1: The Sound of Nonsense 2: The Sound of the Page 3: Silly Noises 4: Pop Hearts Nonsense Conclusion Bibliography Discography Videography

Promotional Information

This book explores the relationships between nonsense literature, 20th century experimental writing, sound poetry, comedy and music by focusing on the importance of sound in the creation, maintenance and disruption of meaning.

About the Author

Richard Elliott is Senior Lecturer in Music at Newcastle University, UK.


Taking a literary and musical path - Lear and Carroll, literary modernism, translation, sonic art and pop records - Richard Elliott provides a sensible view of the nonsensical. Formed of much wordy noise, copious theory lightly handled, and palpable fondness in the writing, The Sound of Nonsense is a quietly provocative manifesto on nonsense's behalf. * Dai Griffiths, Senior Lecturer in Music, Oxford Brookes University, UK *
Elliott's Sound of Nonsense is a deliciously noisy book, a lively sonic romp that enjoins its readers to be enjoyed aloud. It chants and enchants us through realms of utterance shaped by astonishingly diverse artists including Lewis Carroll and Hugo Ball, James Joyce and Bob Dylan, Velimir Khlebnikov and Jaap Blonk. Their often only just speakable tones and textures of proto-lexical sounds lure us into that zaum wonderland Paul Schmidt calls "beyonsense". Elliott's masterful, thoroughly useful scholarship is offset by his contagious delight in his subject. Echoes of poetry freed from semantic shackles, of scat, beatbox, and doowop, bounce off the page to activate our readership via the "mixing desk of the ear". This invigorating Sound of Nonsense makes sound sense. * Sally Jane Norman, Director of the New Zealand School of Music/Te Koki - Victoria University Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand *
There's no sense like nonsense, and here's a no-nonsense survey of it, from the simply silly to the profoundly pointed-a guide to the art of nonsense across cultural levels, at once scholarly and entertaining, original and enlightening. * Paul Dutton, Writer and Oral Sound Artist, Canada *
Richard Elliott's The Sound of Nonsense is an exhilarating, well-informed, and very well written book. Elliott shows an easy familiarity with sources in many languages, including Russian. His principal theoretical assertion is that nonsense occurs in the moment "when sense-making is forced into code-switching;" he also offers the suggestion that nonsense as such supports sociality. Although the book appears to be principally about popular culture, it works closely with sound poetry and with recent experimental styles in modern vocal performance, revealing how they blend with the "popular" forms. It is a work that is rewarding not only for its ideas, but for its searching analysis of individual songs and unusual word-sound combinations. A satisfying book. * Irving Massey, Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University at Buffalo, USA *
A cray and splendiferous example of how sound studies and its necessarily interdisciplinary modes of analysis will lead the way into new intellectual territory. Ranging widely from Lewis Carroll, Hugo Ball, and Gertrude Stein to John Cage, Bob Dylan, and Rahzel, The Sound of Nonsense is much more than a sonic intervention into nonsense scholarship, it is a bridge between music and literature that will open new lines of critical inquiry into the social life of words. Richard Elliott puts the ram in the rama lama ding dong. * J. Griffith Rollefson, author of Flip the Script *

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