Long ‘A’ Says Its Name

Without a body, the alphabet hovers like a hungry ghost above a stagnant well, wailing in an eternal twilight

Long ‘A’ Says Its Name is a piece standing squarely at the confluence of written and spoken language.

The work dismisses the 21 consonants and sometimes-vowels, and unites the sound of the long vowels (through utterances captured by spectrograms), the names of the vowels (through their eponymous pronunciation), and the visual forms of the vowels (through sonified graphic letterforms). More importantly, Long ‘A’ both overdetermines and hyperrationalizes the breath by inscribing it in a technologized graphic form, while at the same time insisting on a particular and non-generalizable image of an utterance that perturbs and destabilizes a classic letterform—all in a way that recreates the mystery of speech and invites the reader’s completion for comprehension.

The verticality of the vowel images are due to the mapping of the frequencies and time—the voice is female, and so the spectrograms rise quite high in proportion to the width of the characters. The cylindrical shapes are reminiscent of Edison’s original phonographic cylinders, as well as seal cylinders designed to roll across wax or clay (leaving a repeatable impression in a very early form of printing), but more importantly, the forms allow one to walk among the vowels, creating relationships between the columnar prints and one’s own body.


© 2018 chad eby