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Poems by Barry Wallenstein 
Music by Luigi Archetti & Mario Marchisella 
Recorded, mixed & produced by Mario Marchisella at Audioscope 
Mastered by Dan Suter at Echochamber 
Cover Art by Luigi Archetti 
All rights reserved by the artists ©2015


What Was Was
Released as special 180g vinyl LP inlcuding the CD with booklet and high resolution download link & as simple CD on Audioscope

Echoes from the Beat Generation
by Marco Sestito "20 Minuti" 3rd November 2015

Zurich / New York - Last October 2nd  What Was, Was (Audioscope/Irascible) was released by the band, “Drastic Dislocations.”


The band was born after a chance meeting in 2013 between Mario Marchisella (drums, typewriter, stylophone), Barry Wallenstein (vocals) and Luigi Archetti (guitar, electronics). The band takes its name from Wallenstein’s collection of poems, Drastic Dislocations (NYQ Books, 2012). Wallenstein is Emeritus Professor of literature and writing at The City College of NY, where he taught from 1965 to 2006 and has been publishing his poetry from 1964 to the present.


The record, What Was, Was, presents Barry Wallenstein reciting fourteen of his poems, selected from his collection, Drastic Dislocations, with the musical contribution of Archetti and Marchisella, two Zurich based musicians. This is a spoken word recording with a good measure of sound experimentalism, creating reverberations of all kinds, projecting the listener into the world of the Beat Generation.


Wallenstein explains: “No, What Was, Was is not a concept record, each poem lives and  exhausts itself in few instants.…”


Barry, “Drastic Dislocations” is also the name of the last track of the record… Tell me about those verses…

It is about a spaceman, who lands on earth after a mission, to warn us against our self-destructive nature …


The Beat Generation flows through the entire work… I imagine that you lived during that period.  Who did you know within that group of writers?


Allen Ginsberg. I was very young, around twenty years old.  His kind attention and criticisms to my very young poems contributed in a decisive way to the development of my writing.


When did you do your first “reading”?


I was 19… I shared that reading with the great bass player and composer, Charles Mingus. I am still in awe of Mingus and this memory.


Mario, musically speaking the production experiments widely…


We did not think in terms of styles and genres but on a structural and foundational level, elaborating sensations, emotions, connected with the poems…



The Music-Poetry of Drastic Dislocations


Drastic Dislocations is the title of a poetry collection by the 75-year-old New Yorker Barry Wallenstein.  It is also the name of a Swiss-American music project, in which all three of the participating artists clearly step beyond the limits of their traditional artistic realms.  Wallenstein has already recorded several albums on which he has been accompanied by music – up to now by free jazz


From Session to Album


The multi-instrumentalist Mario Marchisella was responsible for the kettledrums at the Zurich Opera until he established himself as a composer of film music.  And the Zurich-based artist and guitarist Luigi Archetti is best known in these parts as an improviser and electronic collagist.  The collaboration among these three men began when Marchisella met with Wallenstein for a spontaneous jam session during a retreat on Elba; later he invited the latter to give a concert in Zurich, where Archetti joined them for the first time. 


After two days of intensive recording, the Drastic Dislocations Trio had developed the material for the present album, What Was, Was.


This album distinguishes itself in a very welcome way from other poetry readings with music.  Instead of under- or sometimes over-painting the poet's words with appropriate tones or sounds, or loading them down with virtuoso riffs, these musicians are intent on creating a mood in which the words can spread out and breathe.


From Swing to Rockabilly


Instead of snorting and leaping free-jazz saxophone, this music is composed of solid guitar parts which range, however, from jazzy swing through on-the-road folksong to rockabilly and rock-band feedback.  The sounds are spiced and rhythmically held together by powerful percussion and the contribution of all kinds of electronics.  The result is art that is neither precious nor pretentious.


The musical accompaniment could stand completely on its own.  In combination with Barry Wallenstein's sonorous song-speech (he reminds us, by the way, of David Thomas of Pere Ubu) a new symbiosis is born, which uncovers on both sides, new depths and new wit.


Drastic Dislocations: What Was, Was (Audioscope/Irascible). – CD- Taufe: Zurich, Helsinki, 30. September.

The Legend of the Wild WestBarry Wallenstein
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