Souls of the Labadie Tract takes as its starting point the title poem from Howe’s celebrated 2007 book. The Labadists were a utopian quietist sect that moved from the Netherlands to Maryland in 1684. The community dissolved in 1722, and their sole legacy is a tree, still found in Maryland, known as the Labadie poplar. Souls of the Labadie Tract (2007) creates an aural world of buzzing reeds and electronics, in which individual poems appear at regular intervals. Grubbs’s chosen instruments for this piece include two types of khaen (Laotian mouth organ).
Frolic Architecture (2009) is adapted from one of Howe’s collage poems. For long stretches, it is nearly impossible to separate Howe’s performance of her fragment-strewn text from Grubbs’s further deformations and musical layering. These “aberrant” vocalizations are placed in a sound landscape in which individual pitches pulse autonomously within thick chords. Frolic Architecture is the most radical and abstract of Grubbs’s and Howe’s performance works.