Lincoln Address Distorted in Poem

Electric Ear Offers Antiwar, Mixed-Media Assault

A review by Theodore Strongin, printed in the Village Voice.

The printed program was wrong, the composer said, because it gave away his secret. What should have been simply, "L's G.A." on the program was listed as "Lincoln's Gettysburg Address."

But Salvatore Martirano who wrote "L's G.A.," was himself wrong. Nothing printed on the program could possibly give away what a savage, mindtearing, thundering, antiwar mixed-media documentary poem Mr. Martirano had made out of the famous address.

It was a far cry from a high school elocution demonstration at the Electric Ear series at the Electric Circus, 23 St. Marks Place, last night.

Mr. Martirano's multispeaker, multiprojector version of Lincoln unfolded like a fullfledged battle, threatening every second. The chief live character was a "politico" who recited the address - more or less. It was not given straight. It was distorted and extended to last about 40 minutes.

Taped Sounds Dominate

Although Mr. Martirano's taped sounds are the leading edge, dance, theater, literary and purely visual elements are mixed together inseparably in "L's G.A." Certainly it is literary irony to pick the Gettysburg Address as the key element in a work about man's destructiveness. Ronald Nameth's multiprojector background film underscores the irony, as when the screen shows insectlike toy tanks and planes being arrayed in formation on a nude female body.

The film does more than this. It is fantastically active, with patterns, abstract and not, cascading past the eye so fast that sometimes all the politico needs do to dance is to stand still as the lights play over him.

War Sounds Suggested

But the strongest comment comes from Mr. Martirano's pretaped sounds. Everything that can be associated with war, from bombs bursting to infants crying, is suggested, not quite explicitly, on tape, each kind of sound with an episode to itself. And in distorting the address - beautifully done by M. C. Holloway, reciting through a gas mask - Mr. Martirano has made everthing out of it, from hysterical demagogy to political twaddle.

Aside from commentary, Mr. Martirano's ability to make cogent forms out of telling sounds was clear. "L's G.A.," though it uses other elements, is musical in conception. Its events follow musical order and musical timespans.

Mr. Martirano's way with sounds was also heard in other more strictly musical events on the program, improvised live by his jazz-poetry group, The Border Guard, as well as taped by him.

The program will be repeated tonight at 8:30.