A Four Horsemen reading is a unique
and whole experience. Its nature is subtly determined by the
emotional and acoustic ambience of the immediate setting. The
group takes charge of the physical space, builds rapport with
the audience and funnels the energy of the event into and out
of a vocal tornado that is always arresting and sometimes overpowering.
There is sound at the border of sense and sense at the border
of sound, words torn into shreiks and squawks, paragraphs woven
into a fabric of rhythmic grunts and heart-piercing yowls. Moments
of freewheeling and raucous improvisation alternate with tightly
orchestrated overlaps and ensembles. Now the mood is primitive,
almost brutal ... now it modulates to a soft and delicate poignancy
... again it shifts to parody, self-parody or broad humour. Through
it all there is an air of excitement and an uninhibited revelry
not just in language but in all the capacities of the human voice.
Four Horsemen/Live in the West captures the aural essence
of a Four Horsemen reading and approximates the raw experience
of the group-audience interaction so vital to the quartet's effect
and so lacking in the technological "purity" of a studio
recording. This disc stands as a record of a reading - three
readings, in fact: one at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg,
one at the Western Front in Vancouver, and one at the University
of Alberta in Edmonton, all of them occurring within fourdays
of each other in February, 1974. The visual dimension the dynamic
movement, the facial expressions, the gestures, the theatric effect
which has become an integral part of the Four Horsemen's performances
- is, of necessity, absent. It is compensated for on this recording
by a taste of the essential dynamic of the group's energy interchange
with their audience. Four Horsemen/Live in the West represents
the culmination of four years collaboration in composition and
performance by a Canadian group whose reputation has already begun
to take hold in the United States, Britain, and Europe.
The Four Horsemen are Rafael
Barreto-Rivera, Paul Dutton, Steve McCaffery and bp Nichol. They
are sometimes referred to by the soubriquet "The Horsemen"
and perform under that name when less than the four of them are
involved in an engagement.
Among other things, The Four Horsemen are a collaborative literary work whose metaphor is the pop star image to the enrichment of the pop and literary worlds alike. Among other things, they help break the avant garde mystique that puts publics off and isolates the artists. Among other things, they've helped make it clear how sound poetry isn't a movement but a new tool available to many kinds of writers, and which any audience can enjoy. Among other things, they're both deep and delightful: how many things or people are?
"After several centuries of lying on the page, poetry decided to get up and speak, sing, bellow, howl and whisper. In Canada, the group that first aroused it was The Four Horsemen. They rhythmicised in a new mode that dazzled everyone. As the words flew out of their mouths they punched a disobedient new life into the air. I believe something is happening here that will change the course of modern literature and music too."
"The Four Horsemen dig their electromagnetic spurs into the flesh of our complacency, inspiring the tribe. Poetry is reborn through the Horsemen. At least for the sake of magic and White Goddess, we need them."
Contents of Live in the West