Weight-lifting was tested by Emma Cocker, Cordula Daus and Lena Séraphin in the interior spaces of the Sala del Camino on 9 May 2019, following by a period of reflective conversation that we recorded and subsequently transcribed. Extracts from the conversation are included in this section.



Conversation after the exercise, an (edited) transcript:

The text tries to describe what the good orator does. The author refers to the reading of poems but the text itself is not a poem. Still, it has tone. There is a tone that has been strategically created by the writer and as a reader you can go with it or against it. 

The phenomenological perspective seems to converge with the interest of the poet: to load a text with different forms of tone. Not in the sense of how it is to be spoken but how the writer is able to affect through meaning. Intonation seems somehow more technical. And tone relates to meaning. 

That is where he says "tone is not just an acoustic effect." It has to do with meaning and felt experience. How the text is able to invoke.

But where and how does it happen then, the tone? And how is it signaled in the text?


Perec talks about the overuse of italics. I like that part because I do overuse italics myself. I use them as a way of saying here is where I want the emphasis. As a reader you immediately adapt your tone to the italics which is like an emphasis. 

Some phenomenological texts provoke me. I don't know why. Maybe because they put so much emphasis on bringing out the "inner meaning". So what about focusing on the "outer meaning"? What if we put the tonal emphasis on the non-important? This is how I got interested in this exercise, to try to alleviate the text from its own pathos, to do that even within single sentences, a little like weightlifting. So you might go: "When we create text..." Or: "When we create text..."; Or: "When we create text..."

The prepositions are normally not to be emphasised. Yet prepositions make up relations, and depending on how and when you emphasise them can totally change the text.

It is a strong tool because you can completely divert the listener. You can really go against the text. It becomes gibberish.


You could even try to do that with one sentence until you exhaust all of its intonational possibilities, in a way…

Its intentional possibilities..

Can we do that? Let’s read in a way that we exhaust it!

In order to do weightlifting, I needed my hand to guide me. So I was trying to go up and down, up and down, up and down, which is really against the way to read, it disturbs the clusters.

Weightlifting a sentence: Whenever I get affected by

a sentence, I read it out loud. I try to identify where the weight lies. I repeat this particular part with different tones. I observe the change in weight.

Normally the emphasis lies on the vowels and we were emphasising the consonants, we were ffff ffff-ing giving more force to the consonants. Then there are other languages which have the throat emphasis. 

Sometimes I wondered if I was mimicking. I wanted to do an accent but couldn’t do it. When are you acting or mimicking a French or English person? The border of experimenting with the words as they are, and when does it go over to impersonate or mimic someone else... 

Is it the tone that changes or did you change more than that? Applying the tone of a different language on the text, Russian, German, French... Is it tonal? Or an accent?


Xenophobic, stereotyping?

Accent is used in two ways, and this is interesting and makes me want to look at the etymology.2 There is the specific accent of a language and there is the tonal accent. Can you take out German intonation without it sounding like a German accent? I mean structurally. Distill. 

In a German sentence the verb can be at the very end, so this is where the emphasis lies.



Exactly, and the meaning, too. And as a listener you have to wait for it until the very end.

Notes and Credits

1. Max van Manen, Phenomenology of Practice, (New York: Routledge, 2014), p. 267.

2. Accent (noun) late 14c., "particular mode of pronunciation," from Old French acent "accent" (13c.), from Latin accentus "song added to speech," from ad "to" (see ad-) + cantus "a singing," past participle of canere "to sing" (from PIE root *kan- "to sing").The Latin word was a loan-translation of Greek prosōidia, from pros- "to" + ōidē "song," which apparently described the pitch scheme in Greek verse. Meaning "effort in utterance making one syllable stronger than another in pitch or stress" is from 1580s; as "mark or character used in writing to indicate accent," 1590s. The decorative-arts sense of "something that emphasizes or highlights" is from 1972.

Accent (verb)"to pronounce with accent or stress," 1520s, from Middle French accenter, from Old French acenter "accentuate, stress," from acent (see accent (n.)). Meaning "mark with an accent sign" is from 1660s (implied in accented); figurative sense "mark emphatically" is from 1650s. Etymology online: https://www.etymonline.com/word/accent#etymonline_v_107, viewed 29.11.2019


Example 1) Three readers all sharing the same physical space, taking turns in weight-lifting the same text, 9:28 min.



Chose a sentence, a phrase, a passage, or an entire poem or a story. Try to understand the tone of the text. While reading stay attentive to how single words or passages affect you. Try to locate the affective weight of each word or segment. Vary its intonation and vocalisation. 

Weightlifting may be practised with semantically 'heavy' material such as annoying emails, philosophical texts or essays. Or simply with any text one wants to scrutinise. 

The exercise examines the relation between tone and meaning – the inherent tone of a  text and the effects of different intonations with which words and word sequences can be read. While re-sensing focuses on single words, weightlifting looks at words in relation to other words.