From 1978 to 1981 Richard Tabor spearheaded a project to break formalist traditions
prevailing in Cambridge. After founding Lobby Press he became co-ordinator of the
Cambridge Poetry Society and a member of the committee which planned and put on
the international Cambridge Poetry Festival. During the same period he collaborated
closely with Richard Hammersley and Mark Chinca, forming a performing quartet with
Throughout that time he was a controversial figure, variously regarded as liberating
and tyrannical, creative and destructive, profound and puerile. All these aspects
are to be found in his poems, sound texts and collages in books as well as in critical
and theoretical pieces in magazines, including those he edited, most notably the
Lobby Press Newsletter.
After moving from Cambridge in 1981 and eventually returning to his native Somerset
he withdrew increasingly from active engagement with other poets and performers and
his own and Lobby Press publications became sporadic. Without the stimulus of a regular
performing group his work has become much more word-based and usually for a single
voice. During that time he has spent 15 years as a psychiatric nurse, straddling
the closure of the large institutions and the shifting of treatment towards an often
euphemistically named community. He has also done a PhD in archaeological landscape
survey and from 1992 to 2008 directed the South Cadbury Environs Project, employed
from 2001 to 2008 as a research fellow at the University of Bristol. His popular
account of the research is due from Tempus in August 2008 and he is working on the
final academic report.
Tabor’s first multi-vocal piece, Polyphony No 1, was performed at The Little Theatre,
Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1977. In most respects it is a conventional poem arranged
in four movements, or aspects, for five voices using meters based on Medieval and
Renaissance dances. During the same year he composed his first score for three voices,
Cloud Chamber. Although word-based, a narrative is increasingly abstracted before
the pain of industrial processes is made concrete in the repetitive vocal patterns
of the third aspect. The sound, although not its scored form, was much influenced
by a jgjgjgjg performance of Cris Cheek’s In the Park. In 1978 he moved sharply towards
a more abstract form of expression in Xpls x, adding backing tracks to the three
live voices who only rarely find words in a concerto-like piece.
In 1980 Tabor produced a major scored piece, Boboli/Mariette/Le Machine, in which
he explored ideas concerning the interaction between space, audience and performers,
members of the latter being treated differentially. He also introduced a means for
creating unique copies in a mass productive process by mixing ink colours as the
litho printed. The colours determine which voice utters which marks of the partially
collagist Le Machine, creating critical interpretative problems as the colours mix.
Plans to realise the piece in either London or Paris fell through due to problems
with rehearsal time and it remains unperformed.
Since the early 1980s Tabor has been working on a multi-faceted poem, Die Zeithandlung,
notes towards which appeared in ‘procedures’. The piece deals with destructive impulses
in humans and their implications. Ten years later he began an epic parallel piece,
An Archaeology of Poetry, working through notions of human creativity. The latter
first saw light in a Hegelian preview of the subject in Groundwork towards an archaeology,
performed in the London SubVoicive series in the early 1990s with Kevin Hegan and
the late Alaric Sumner. Increasingly the two projects are entwining, and words becoming
the dominant features of the text.
Tabor is available as a solo performer/reader for £60 plus travelling expenses. He
is also looking for three or four committed people, men and women, to perform his
old and new multivocal texts, as well as their own. If you are interested in participating
in regular, structured, disciplined, rehearsals send an email.