Giorno Poetry Systems - History

History

In the early 1960s, young New York-born poet John Giorno became acquainted with artists who were at the threshold of their successful careers, most notably Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Merce Cunningham and John Cage. Warhol would have an important impact on Giorno, as the latter became the protagonist of Warhol's film Sleep (1963), which depicts Giorno sleeping for five hours, and the unreleased Handjob, following Giorno's face while masturbating.

Giorno believed that, at this level, poetry was running behind. Evidently, these artists in music and painting etc., would act whenever an idea arose in their minds, while the availability and progression of poetry was limited to books and magazines, let alone multimedia or performance.

Analogue to then active Pop-Art ideas, Giorno wanted to change poetry's situation by communicating to his audiences through everyday means such as telephone, television, records and so on. After all, phonographs and radio were a perfect terrain for people to listen, as Giorno called it poetry’s venue. Furthermore, these ways would offer Giorno's ideas a wide open space to explore, to reach a broad audience not limited anymore to that of the poetry magazines.

From 1965 on, Giorno would explore tape and phonograph recording, along with colleagues William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, using a variety of tape experiments such as loops and cut techniques Giorno was introduced to Bob Moog, who was working on his Moog synthesizer, on the verge of its fame.

The GPS label released albums regularly until the late 1980s. Many of these albums included early recordings by later-prominent performers such as Laurie Anderson and Philip Glass as well as unique performances by Frank Zappa, Diamanda Galás, Allen Ginsberg, John Cage, and Brion Gysin, as well as Giorno and Burroughs. In the 1990s, Giorno Poetry Systems released a box set collecting its recordings of William S. Burroughs.

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