Search PennSound

Susan Howe and David Grubbs

(click on images to see in higher resolution)

Thiefth (Blue Chopsticks BC15), 2005

Thiefth is the first collaboration between poet Susan Howe and musician and composer David Grubbs. The two were brought together when the Fondation Cartier proposed a collaborative performance. Grubbs had been an ardent reader of Howe's for more than a decade, and the opportunity to work with Howe's poetry and her voice immediately intrigued. In late 2003, the two set about to create performance versions of "Thorow" and "Melville's Marginalia," two of Howe's longer poems.

Drawing from the journals of Sir William Johnson and Henry David Thoreau, "Thorow" both evokes the winter landscape that surrounds Lake George in upstate New York, and explores collisions and collusions of historical violence and national identity. "Thorow" is an act of second seeing in which Howe and Grubbs engage the lake's glittering, ice surface as well as the insistent voices that haunt an unseen world underneath.

"Melville's Marginalia" is an approach to an elusive and allusive mind through Herman Melville's own reading and the notations he made in some of the books he owned and loved. The collaging and mirror-imaging of words and sounds are concretions of verbal static, visual mediations on what can and cannot be said.

  1. Thorow: Introduction (2:57): MP3
  2. Thorow: I (3:32): MP3
  3. Thorow: II (5:42): MP3
  4. Thorow: III (3:08): MP3
      • Susan Howe: reader
      • Mats Gustafsson: baritone saxophone, fluteophone
      • Nikos Veliotis: cello
      • David Grubbs: computer

  5. Melville's Marginalia (19:47): MP3
      • Susan Howe: reader
      • David Grubbs: piano, computer

Recorded by Ross Bonadonna at Wombat Recording Company, Brooklyn, with additional recording by Tim Iseler at Soma, Chicago, and Mats Gustafsson in Gustavsberg, Sweden. Mixed by DG at Black Faurest. Mastered by Doug Henderson at Micro-Moose.

© 2005 Susan Howe and David Grubbs. Published by Gastr Virgo Music (BMI), administered in Europe by Rough Trade, Ltd.

"Souls of the Labadie Tract," recorded live at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London, October 8, 2009

Susan Howe and David Grubbs's visit to the UK in October 2009 was supported by Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities; by the Department of English, the Humanities and Arts Research Centre and the Faculty of Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London; and by the Judith E. Wilson Fund at Cambridge University. Thanks to Will Montgomery, Will Rowe, and Drew Milne.

A studio recording of "Souls of the Labadie Tract" has been released on CD by Blue Chopsticks.

At the Walker Art Center, April 29, 2010

Frolic Architecture, Harvard University, November 1, 2011

Complete video (1:02:49): MOV

Reading, WOODSLIPPERCOUNTERCLATTER, ISSUE Project Room, October 25, 2013

  • Complete reading (41:58): MP3
  • Watch on

    Susan Howe and David Grubbs on PennSound Daily

    These sound recordings are being made available for noncommercial and educational use only. © 2013 Susan Howe and David Grubbs. All rights to this recorded material belong to Susan Howe and David Grubbs. Used with permission of Susan Howe and David Grubbs. Distributed by PennSound.