AntiphonalAirs400Antiphonal Airs
by Joseph Noble
Skylight Press, 2013
124 pages / $15.99 Buy from Skylight Press or Amazon







 “What is wonderful about music is that it helps man to concentrate or meditate independently of thought. Therefore music seems to be the bridge over the gulf between the form and the formless. If there is anything intelligent, effective, and at the same time formless, it is music.” — Hazrat Inayat Khan, “Spiritual Attainment by the Aid of Music”


“One must side with Brahms or with the sun.” — E.M. Cioran, All Gall Is Divided


Antiphonal Airs interacts with the musical vibration of “transforming what is unseen into what is heard / what is unheard into what is imagined.” These grandiloquent gestures soar through entirely agreeable intonations, creating an excellent sensory experience. Here the music of poetry is refracted through early Italian Baroque music. Noble explores little-known yet magnificent composers, such as Nicola Matteis, Marco Uccellini, Giovanni Legrenzi, and Sigismondo D’India, to name just a few. As a classical music lover, this is pure delight.

On the similarities between poetry and music, Noble writes, “they both use sound, both take place in time, both seem to move with a fluidity of association at times, both have a sensual dimension to them, both can be an outcry or a whisper and everything between, are articulations of vibrating air, and both are avenues of enlightenment.” Antiphonal Airs is full of rich and vibrant poems, their lyrical nature echoing and reflecting the work of master composers.

air forgets its name
(water upon the sun)a fever fingers syllables
(ink spilling its reins)

harp in the street
(who turns the sun?)

song wheel in the iris
(swallow dilating sleep)

river flings itself into its reflection
(drum collides with the wind)

air is shaping the ear
(map on the tympanum)

angel climbs through the arm
(which finch in the ankle?)”

Encompassing a mirror of refraction and recognition through these two separate modalities of language, music and poetry, comes the realization that perception itself is a mirror. A reflection here is an echo oscillating a prismatic sonic ascendency, creating a kind of music of the mind –– an increase in the alpha, beta, and gamma waves that bring peacefulness to a finely tuned and more fully awakened mind. These vibratory pulsations conduct the contents of our mind as if it were a grand chamber orchestra.

Through the crystal of the psyche, this spectral enmeshment moves to a higher vibration closer to the ancient origin of energy, in accordance to the mastery of grand dimensions. According to Kashmir Shaivite philosophy, before the universe was created, the frequency of sound was a living intelligence coerced into negation and dreamt across the abyss –– dissolving into shadows and dreams, infiltrating everything seen and unseen. Here is sound recognizing itself. With the immediacy of clear vision, music is floating in and out of the text, like the melodies of Bach or Telemann weaving in and out of each other. The multifoliate rose appears here as a spectrum both encompassing and eclipsing the vortex of the known.

“the name’s melancholy
the name’s memory
before any extravagance of the future
the name softens the blowit realizes a dead language
its typography creates its own fantasia
the page’s delirium
the bee’s mouth

the name strikes out on its own
carries a honeycomb in its belly
pulls a string across the turtle’s shell
runs its fingers along the sky’s bell

the name calls what is unknown
out of what is known”

In his afterword to Invenzioni e Stravaganze, the first half of the book, Noble writes that “The poems are concerned with various topics, among them: memory, both personal and historical; the movement of love and of music; movement through time; movement through geography; rapture; truth; dialogue; articulation; silence; echoes; song; transfiguration; metamorphosis, identity, naming.” Antiphonal Airs also contains space, balance, volume, chiaroscuro, absence, presence, vibratory pulsations, and other ethereal things. This is a rhythmical modality, its dithyrambic axis blazing out of a deeper spectrum where THOUGHT is displaced by ECSTATIC BLISS. Through chromatic radiance, the energy of a crescendo attains spheres of sonorous pleasure. This feeling disregards mediocrity and strives for a harmonic ideal that really takes flight through the poetry and the sacred geometric frequencies of sound.

These poems explore the elevation of sonority, piercing actuality with their diaphanous vision and animated awareness. The pleasure I receive from listening to Purcell’s Fantasias and In Nomines may be different from reading Blake or Shelley, but there is an inner recognition –– the awakening principle tempered with the joy and formidable awe in interacting with the integrated psyche. This diffraction resonates at levels both harmonic and homologous –– bridging the space between historicity and timelessness, and leading me to a space for which there ultimately are no words. At this stage the substance of consciousness is either altered or it breaks down entirely. This is a rich ore mined admirably by Noble, and it’s something I’d like to see more of.

“within the song
are foundboth tone and word
and neither

read the strings
the ear listens

to their lines and
the spaces between

tongue clap thrown
hue heard and cried aloud

“Otsu! Play the bamboo flute.
It heals sorrow.”

sound enters the bone
created by sound

in a quark, the tiniest
filament hums

string quivering
with its own tune

from here to there
a leap between

coccyx singing

hopping from wire to neuron”

Noble’s poetry is exploring this transpersonal type of awareness enlivened by music that is both peaceful and energetic, this enriching specter of enmeshment where the very focal point of our energetic awareness is subsumed into the imaginal. Noble is wondering, “what will carry you / from here to there / from air to air / through the strings / over the table of memory?” This “aural geometry” fascinates by using music theory and musical language to embrace cymatics and sacred ancient theories on the relationship between sound and matter, where the energy, rhythm and harmony of Baroque music reflects the harmony and order in the Cosmos. Noble’s exquisite vision compresses melodies of sonorous air in ways that I found wholly resonant. Antiphonal Airs delightfully explores the modality of recognition –– sound and matter, the seen and the unseen, recognizing each other as both manifestations of the same ecstatic principles.


Chris Moran lives in Columbus, OH. His website is

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