Read what the Knight Foundation had to say about Techno Poetics: FROM MOTOWN TO TECHNO: PROJECT EXPLORES DETROIT’S MODERN MUSICAL LEGACY

In 2014, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation named InsideOut Literary Arts Project one of 58 winners of its second annual Detroit Knight Arts Challenge. 

As part of the challenge, Knight awarded $2.48 million including $100,000 to iO for Techno Poetics, a project that aims to pay homage to Detroit’s Post-Motown Sound through research and a culminating public performance. The project is led by poet and iO alum Nandi Comer. She left a position as a staff artist and writing program coordinator at the Vermont Center for the year-long adventure of designing the project’s curriculum, research and final performance. Techno Poetics was formerly known as Dancing Through the Night. 

As Comer works toward Techno Poetics culminating public project in the spring of 2016, she has been crisscrossing the city recording narratives with citizens, youth, Techno pioneers and other sound artists all with the intention helping Detroit understand and celebrate the importance of having launched a global music industry in the shadows of Motown. With an assist from local sound artist Mother Cyborg, provided a preview of her work in the Detroit Institute of Arts historic Rivera Court. Mother Cyborg brought the beats while Comer illuminated  through a tribute poem to some of the genres leading figures.

Musical genres such as lounge and hip-hop all have roots in Detroit, yet many people still limit the city’s musical impact to Motown. With challenge funding, local artists, guided by Comer will produce a multidisciplinary poetry performance that celebrates  the electronic dance movement and explores the contributions of Detroit DJs. Word and sound artists will produce recordings weaving research, personal narratives of city residents and original poems. Checkout a recent 
interview featuring Comer explaining the bridge she’s building between Detroit, poetry and music.

“Techno Poetics is really about collaboration,” explains Comer. “Detroit Poets and all kinds of sound artists–DJs, Producers, even traditional instrument players– work together with the goal of creating new pieces that celebrate the history of Detroit and it’s contemporary music.”

In August, Comer led a three week summer intensive with youth poets curious about Techno’s role in Detroit’s post-Motown musical legacy. Student used field trips to some of Detroit’s popular and little known sites including Submerge, a techno museum, and the Motown Museum, ironically just a few blocks away from one another on East Grand Boulevard. 

“Techno was started here in the Motor City. In my work I search for ways to explore that sound and culture that began in my city. I look to the form and sounds of Techno as a guide for composing my poems while the city’s history gives me inspiration for themes. There is a legacy here and it should be celebrated.”

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