For avant-garde poets, audio recording was both a breakthrough and a threat.

Evan Kindley:

In the winter of 1965, Allen Ginsberg hit the road in a Volkswagen camper. The trip was a speaking tour, of sorts, as Ginsberg was scheduled to read his poetry in cities all over the West Coast and the Midwest, but it was also an experiment in composition. Ginsberg brought with him a portable Uher tape recorder, then an expensive novelty (bought with $600 given to him by Bob Dylan), and used it to dictate what eventually became part of The Fall of America: Poems of These States, 1965–1971 (1973). Moving “through a range of shifting American environments,” Lytle Shaw writes in his new book Narrowcast: Poetry and Audio Research (2018), “Ginsberg could capture his own voice, and make almost instantaneous notations, without having to scrawl in a notebook or type on a typewriter.” He could also record radio transmissions, effortlessly incorporating the transistor buzz of contemporary history into his pocket epic. Here, for instance, is the opening of “Hiway Poesy L.A.–Albuquerque–Texas–Wichita”: