Skip to main content

"You just like the way her voice sounds." Teresia Teaiwa and Sia Figiel -- Terenesia reissued

CD cover (click to enlarge)

I was on the phone with my ex-wife one night in 1999, explaining the project I was working on with Richard Hamasaki (aka red flea) and poets Teresia Teaiwa and Sia Figiel.  I played her a rough mix of Teaiwa's "Recognition" thinking she would understand that this project was more than the just the recording of a poet's recitation.  With a certain cold disdain she responded: "You just like the way her voice sounds." 

Well...yeah.  I mean that's why we were recording.  But I was taken aback for a moment. Poetry is the sound of voice.  At least, that's how it began.  At some point it took a path (or a detour) onto pieces of paper, but in some fundamental way poetry remains an expression in sound, an articulation of voice.  Terenesia was from the outset to be an album of "amplified poetry," a form coined by red flea that invites musical instruments, electronic recording and manipulation of the sound itself.  In amplified poetry the voice sometimes folds over itself to create a polyphony of words.  The effect of this vocal word-polyphony on Terenesia is the shimmering of the ocean sometimes.  Really.
CD inside cover (clik 2 big)

A wonderful example is the first track, Teaiwa's appropriately titled, "First Words" where a digitally manipulated, completely separate "echo" track chases the primary track and finally catches it on "last words."  There is poignancy, a significance, a meaning in this that cannot be expressed in writing, simple recitation or in any other form.  This is amplified poetry. 

I had heard this sort of word polyphony on Glenn Gould's rather esoteric radio documentary, The Idea of North.  The technique finds a warmer and even humorous accommodation on "Dear Tere / One Day," the only track featuring both poets.

Like red flea's virtual fleality, Terenesia was recorded and mixed at the Midnight Mental Hospital in Niu Valley, Honolulu.  It is, however, very different from virtual fleality.  Every track on virtual fleality features musical instruments.  Only four tracks from Terenesia use musical instruments, and four tracks feature singing without any accompanying musical instruments.  Here's a species breakdown of Terenesia by track:
(click if nearsighted)
A recollection and documentation of the actual recording process await another post or perhaps another's post.

Time has made both poets eminently googleable, and I didn't know to which entry to hyperlink their names so I didn't.  The digital era does make instant revision possible though.  If anyone has suggestions or better yet photos from the era, send them to me here at TheDougNote at

The way it was (click big)

Why reissue Terenesia?  The original and only run of 500 CDs is long gone.  This is the way of poetry.  Emily Dickinson bound a very few copies of her poetry for a few select people.  Shih-Te left tiny poems brushed on shrub leaves.  But Terenesia is a digital work that persists and blossoms in this digital era.  I am not thinking in terms of sales.  I am thinking how amazing it might be for new ears.  And for old ears to hear again.  With the current digital means of distribution, Terenesia might find an audience beyond what was possible before.  That kinda goes against the very exclusive and esoteric principles behind limited edition chapbooks and such, but it would be a shame to keep these tracks hidden.  I think of them as literary assets. 

Jewel box back (clicking bigs)

Or maybe I am reissuing it just as an excuse for me to listen again with great attention and care.  It doesn't matter.  Maybe it's just a voice that made my ex-wife jealous.

-- H. Doug Matsuoka
24 August 2010
Makiki, Honolulu

Clickable previews at:
iTunes Store
Amazon mp3 store


  1. I continue to reverently follow you as you move around the Internet. "The midnight mental hospital" in Niu, you have a way with words!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Love, Truth, and Action: John Kelly's 3 requirements for activists

[I found this essay, originally published in 1997 and simply titled, "Save Our Surf" at Hawaiian Sovereignty activist Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele's Hawaii-Nation website. I have retitled it and added headings and illustrations. All illustrations are from the University of Hawaii's digital collection of Kelly's pamphlets, posters, and photos. The are from protests and demonstrations dating back to the 1960's. 

Kelly's Save Our Surf (SOS) group started in the late 1960's in an effort to protect surfing and fishing sites that were being threatened by corporate development. Not only was SOS successful in those efforts, it helped create legislation protecting our natural resources, and was behind the creation of the first inventory of the public use of Hawaii's shoreline on all islands. — H. Doug Matsuoka]

Love, Truth, and Action
by John Kelly

One often hears dismay over differences among the various [Hawaiian] sovereignty movements today. We belie…

How I stopped worrying and learned to love the bomb

I think my boss at work (a Honolulu nonprofit) is a littled miffed at me. When the incoming ballistic missile warning came in over everyone’s phone this morning, she texted that she had just had training on this and for us to, “stay indoors, preferably on the floor away from windows.” I texted back that I was going to post, “still time to donate” on our website.
I live in a wooden house with windows facing Honolulu International Airport, Hickam Air Force Base, and Pearl Harbor. Given even a sub-megaton airburst at several thousand feet, and that the fatalities from atomic weapons come from the flash, not the blast (the flash of nuclear energy and not the explosive force), I’d be a memory before my body could experience any misgivings about the situation.
My boss is a quarter century younger than I am and lacks the dubious benefit of having lived through the Cold War with the Soviet Union (check history books for those guys). The American national doctrine against nuclear war with the…

What The City Doesn’t Want You To Know About Thomas Square

[This article was originally published by CivilBeat on July 21, 2016. I'm reprinting it with video clips. Doug]

The City of Honolulu plans to close Thomas Square on Aug. 15 for six months and re-open it in February 2017 as something completely different, according to its master plan. Although city officials have unveiled grandiose plans concerning a drastic makeover, there are a number of troubling things they are trying to keep under cover:

1. It will no longer be a public park. The master plan calls for Thomas Square to be transferred from the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, where it is a public park, to its Department of Enterprise Services. What is it? The department runs the Blaisdell Center, the Waikiki Shell, the zoo and the public golf courses. By way of a memo dated April 28 from the city’s enterprise chief Guy Kaulukukui to the state’s head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the city asked the state to make changes to allow a change of purpose for…