Category Archives: Audio

The Supremes

Mark Jarman

The SupremesIn Ball’s Market after surfing till noon,
We stand in wet trunks, shivering,
As icing dissolves off our sweet rolls
Inside the heat-blued counter oven,
When they appear on his portable TV,
Riding a float of chiffon as frothy
As the peeling curl of a wave.
The parade m. c. talks up their hits
And their new houses outside of Detroit,
And old Ball clicks his tongue.
Gloved up to their elbows, their hands raised
Toward us palm out, they sing,
“Stop! In the Name of Love,” and don’t stop,
But slip into the lower foreground.
.
Every day of a summer can turn,
From one moment, into a single day.
I saw Diana Ross in her first film
Play a brief scene by the Pacific–
And that was the summer it brought back.
Mornings we paddled out, the waves
Would be little more than embellishments–
Lathework and spun glass,
Gray-green with cold, but flawless.
When the sun burned through the light fog,
They would warm and swell,
Wind-scaled and ragged,
And radios up and down the beach
Would burst on with her voice.
.
She must remember that summer
Somewhat differently.  And so must the two
Who sang with her in long matching gowns,
Standing a step back on her left and right,
As the camera tracked them
Into our eyes in Ball’s Market.
But what could we know, tanned white boys,
Wiping sugar and salt from our mouths,
And leaning forward to feel their song?
Not much, except to feel it
Ravel us up like a wave
In the silk of white water,
Simply, sweetly, repeatedly,
And just as quickly let go.
.
We didn’t stop either, which is how
We vanished, too, parting like spray–
Ball’s Market, my friends and I.
Dredgers ruined the waves,
Those continuous dawn perfections,
And Ball sold high to the high rises
Cresting over them.  His flight out of L.A.,
Heading for Vegas, would have banked
Above the wavering lines of surf.
He may have seen them.  I have,
Leaving again for points north and east,
Glancing down as the plane turns.
From that height they still look frail and frozen,
Full of simple sweetness and repetition.
.
Listen to The Supremes sing “Stop In The Name Of Love” (Ready Steady Go – 1965)
.
Please note that on June 28, we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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Lost Fugue for Chet

Lynda Hull

Chet Baker, Amsterdam, 1988  

Lost Fugue for ChetA single spot slides the trumpet’s flare then stops
   at that face, the extraordinary ruins thumb-marked
with the hollows of heroin, the rest chiaroscuroed.
   Amsterdam, the final gig, canals & countless
.
stone bridges arc, glimmered in lamps. Later this week
    his Badlands face, handsome in a print from thirty
years ago, will follow me from the obituary page
    insistent as windblown papers by the black cathedral
.
of St. Nicholas standing closed today: pigeon shit
    & feathers, posters swathing tarnished doors, a litter
of syringes. Junkies cloud the gutted railway station blocks
    & dealers from doorways call coca, heroina, some throaty
.
foaming harmony. A measured inhalation, again
    the sweet embouchure, metallic, wet stem. Ghostly,
the horn’s improvisations purl & murmur
    the narrow strasses of Rosse Buurt, the district rife
.
with purse-snatchers, women alluring, desolate, poised
    in blue windows, Michelangelo boys, hair spilling
fluent running chords, mares’ tails in the sky green
    & violet. So easy to get lost, these cavernous
.
brown cafés. Amsterdam, & its spectral fogs, its
    bars & softly shifting tugboats. He builds once more
the dense harmonic structure, the gabled houses.
    Let’s get lost. Why court the brink & then step back?

After surviving, what arrives? So what’s the point
    when there are so many women, creamy callas with single
furled petals turning in & upon themselves
    like variation, nights when the horn’s coming
.
genius riffs, metal & spit, that rich consuming rush
    of good dope, a brief languor burnishing
the groin, better than any sex. Fuck Death.
    In the audience, there’s always this gaunt man, cigarette
.
in hand, black Maserati at the curb, waiting,
    the fast ride through mountain passes, descending with
no rails between asphalt & precipice. Inside, magnetic
    whispering take me there, take me. April, the lindens
.
& horse chestnuts flowering, cold white blossoms
    on the canal. He’s lost as he hears those inner voicings,
a slurred veneer of chords, molten, fingering
    articulate. His glance below Dutch headlines, the fall
.
“accidental” from a hotel sill. Too loaded. What do you do
    at the brink? Stepping back in time, I can only
imagine the last hit, lilies insinuating themselves
    up your arms, leaves around your face, one hand vanishing
.
sabled to shadow. The newsprint photo & I’m trying
    to recall names, songs, the sinuous figures, but facts
don’t matter, what counts is out of pained dissonance,
    the sick vivid green of backstage bathrooms, out of
.
broken rhythms—and I’ve never forgotten, never—
    this is the tied-off vein, this is 3 a.m. terror
thrumming, this is the carnation of blood clouding
    the syringe, you shaped summer rains across the quays
.
of Paris, flame suffusing jade against a girl’s
    dark ear. From the trumpet, pawned, redeemed, pawned again
you formed one wrenching blue arrangement, a phrase endlessly
    complicated as that twilit dive through smoke, applause,
.
the pale hunted rooms. Cold chestnuts flowering April
    & you’re falling from heaven in a shower of eighth notes
to the cobbled street below & foaming dappled horses
    plunge beneath the still green waters of the Grand Canal.
.
Listen to Chet Baker play “My Funny Valentine” from his album “Last Great Concert: My Favorite Songs 1 & 2” (1988)
.

On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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Charlie Parker (1950)

Campbell McGrath

Charlie Parker (1950)Bird is building a metropolis with his horn.

Here are the gates of Babylon, the walls of Jericho cast down.

Might die in Chicago, Kansas City’s where I was born.
.
Snowflake in a blizzard, purple rose before the thorn.

Stone by stone, note by note, atom by atom, noun by noun,

Bird is building a metropolis with his horn.
.
Uptown, downtown, following the river to its source,

Savoy, Three Deuces, Cotton Club, Lenox Lounge.

Might just die in Harlem, Kansas City’s where I was born.
.
Bird is an abacus of possibility, Bird is riding the horse

of habit and augmented sevenths. King without a crown,

Bird is building a metropolis with his horn.
.
Bred to the labor of it, built to claw an eye from the storm,

made for the lowdown, the countdown, the breakdown.

Might die in Los Angeles, Kansas City’s where I was born.
.
Bridge by bridge, solo by solo, set by set, chord by chord,

woodshed to penthouse, blue to black to brown,

Charlie Parker is building a metropolis with his horn.

Might just die in Birdland, Kansas City’s where I was born.
.
Listen to Charlie “Bird” Parker play Yardbird Suite

.
On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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The Stolen Child

W. B. Yeats

The Stolen ChildWhere dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
.
Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
.
Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.
.
Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.
.
Listen to The Waterboys sing “The Stolen Child
.
On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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On 52nd Street

Philip Levine, 1928 – 2015

On 52nd StreetDown sat Bud, raised his hands,
the Deuces silenced, the lights
lowered, and breath gathered
for the coming storm. Then nothing,
not a single note. Outside starlight
from heaven fell unseen, a quarter-
moon, promised, was no show,
ditto the rain. Late August of ‘50,
NYC, the long summer of abundance
and our new war. In the mirror behind
the bar, the spirits—imitating you—
stared at themselves. At the bar
the tenor player up from Philly, shut
his eyes and whispered to no one,
“Same thing last night.” Everyone
been coming all week long
to hear this. The big brown bass
sighed and slumped against
the piano, the cymbals held
their dry cheeks and stopped
chicking and chucking. You went
back to drinking and ignored
the unignorable. When the door
swung open it was Pettiford
in work clothes, midnight suit,
starched shirt, narrow black tie,
spit shined shoes, as ready
as he’d ever be. Eyebrows
raised, the Irish bartender
shook his head, so Pettiford eased
himself down at an empty table,
closed up his Herald Tribune,
and shook his head. Did the TV
come on, did the jukebox bring us
Dinah Washington, did the stars
keep their appointments, did the moon
show, quartered or full, sprinkling
its soft light down? The night’s
still there, just where it was, just
where it’ll always be without
its music. You’re still there too
holding your breath. Bud walked out.
.
Listen to Bud Powell play the 52nd Street Theme

.
On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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Villanelle with Violin

Marilyn Krysl

Villanelle with ViolinI was so small, so very much afraid.

I prayed my father might turn into light.

There was no price that I would not have paid
.
to pray the way the light knelt down and prayed.

I prayed that I might learn to be like light,

but I was small, and very much afraid,
.
and he stayed silent. Was I badly made?

His violin made sound turn into light,

and there’s no price that I would not have paid
.
to hear him play Thais each night. He made

it sound as though the bow was made of light.

Still I was small, and very much afraid
.
when he got mad and broke the things he’d made.

He tried and tried so hard to do things right,  

and there’s no price that he would not have paid
.
to sit with me at dusk and watch light fade.

Both of us were made from that same light,

And there’s no price we two would not have paid—

we who were small and very much afraid.
.
Listen to Itzhak Perlman play Massenet’s “Thais” Meditation

.
On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

 

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The Day Duke Raised: May 24th, 1974

Quincy Troupe

For Duke Ellington

The Day Duke Raised1.
that day began with a shower
of darkness, calling lightning rains
home to stone language
of thunderclaps, shattering, the high
blue, elegance, of space & time
where a broken-down, riderless, horse
with frayed wings
rode a sheer bone, sunbeam
road, down into the clouds

2.
spoke wheels of lightning jagged
around the hours, & spun high up
above those clouds, duke wheeled
his chariot of piano keys
his spirit, now, levitated from flesh
& hovering over the music of most high
spoke to the silence
of a griot-shaman-man
who knew the wisdom of God

3.
at high noon, the sun cracked
through the darkness, like a rifle shot
grew a beard of clouds on its livid, bald
face, hung down, noon, sky high
pivotal time of the flood-deep hours
as duke was pivotal, being a five in the nine
numbers of numerology
as his music was one of the crossroads
a cosmic mirror of rhythmic gri-gri

4.
so get on up & fly away duke, bebop
slant & fade on in, strut, dance swing, riff
& float & stroke those tickling, gri-gri keys
those satin ladies taking the A train  up
to harlem, those gri-gri keys
of birmingham, breakdown
sophisticated ladies, mood indigo
get on up & strut across, gri-gri
raise on up, your band’s waiting

5.
thunderclapping music, somersaulting
clouds, racing across the deep, blue wisdom
of God, listen, it is time for your intro, duke
into that other place, where the all-time great
band is waiting for your intro, duke
it is time for the Sacred Concert, duke
it is time to make the music of God, duke
we are listening for your intro, duke
so let the sacred music, begin.
.
Listen to Duke Ellington play “Take the A Train”
.
On June 28 we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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The Final Movement of a Late Quartet

Christian Barter

           on Beethoven’s Opus 131 in C-sharp minor

The Final Movement of a Late QuartetUntil the last three hammer strokes batter

through its dense walls with the light of C-sharp major, this
.
is the darkest music we know and yet

there is no struggle here, no pain,.
.
just death strolling around in some city it made

within us long ago, death’s version of joy,
.
and even the lilting, major-key second theme

is not some hope flowering over the grave or even
.
a long last look from our sweetest love,

but rather, death smelling the air in some
.
garden it planted within us long ago.

Until the last three hammer strokes
.
batter through with the life of C-sharp major,

no wonder we’re inclined to think
.
these places are not that important to us—though strange,

and undeniably beautiful—we who sit
.
with our ipods in the thicknesseses

of late March sun, our lovers creaking the floor downstairs,
.
deep in the citadel of our years.
.
Listen to the Takács Quartet play Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14, Op. 131
.
On June 28, we will read and discuss poetry inspired by music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

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Where Corals Lie

Where Corals LieToday (June 2nd) is Sir Edward Elgar’s birthday. “Where Corals Lie” is a poem by Richard Garnett which was set to music by Sir Edward Elgar as the fourth song in his song-cycle Sea Pictures. The poem was first published in Io in Egypt and other poems in 1859 and subsequently anthologized in Sea Music in 1888.

(Italicised text indicates lines repeated in the song, but not in the original poem.)

The deeps have music soft and low
When winds awake the airy spry,
It lures me, lures me on to go
And see the land where corals lie.
The land, the land, where corals lie.
.
By mount and mead, by lawn and rill,
When night is deep, and moon is high,
That music seeks and finds me still,
And tells me where the corals lie.
And tells me where the corals lie.
.
Yes, press my eyelids close, ’tis well,
Yes, press my eyelids close, ’tis well,
But far the rapid fancies fly
To rolling worlds of wave and shell,
And all the land where corals lie.
.
Thy lips are like a sunset glow,
Thy smile is like a morning sky,
Yet leave me, leave me, let me go
And see the land where corals lie.
The land, the land, where corals lie.
.
On June 28, we will read and discuss poetry inspired by a piece of music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.
.
Listen to “Where Corals Lie” sung by Dame Janet Baker

 

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Danse Macabre (Memento Mori)

Danse MacabreThe above image is an anonymous German engraving from 1635. An hourglass rests by the back foot of the smiling skeleton. A broken arrow sits beside it and there is another one in the quiver. It was a piece of art designed to hang at eye level so that the arrow—the one locked and loaded into the crossbow—was pointing directly at the viewer. In very old French, the inscription reads:

“Ma flesche (asseure toy) n’espargnera personne

Vous danserez trestout ce balet, que je sonnne”

( “My arrow (I promise you) spares no one

You will all dance the ballet of which I sing”)
.

Danse Macabre, Op. 40, is a tone poem for orchestra, written in 1874 by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It started out in 1872 as an art song for voice and piano with a French text by the poet Henri Cazalis, which is based on an old French superstition. The text comes from the poem “Égalité, Fraternité…”, part of Jean Lahor’s (a pseudonym of Henri Cazalis) “l’Illusion”. An English translation of the poem follows:
.
Danse Macabre

Zig and zig and zig, Death rhythmically

Taps upon a tomb with his heel;

Death at midnight plays a dance air,

Zig and zig and zig on his violin.
.
The winter wind blows and the night is gloomy,

Groaning comes from the lime trees;

White skeletons move through the shadows,

Running and jumping under their large shrouds.
.
Zig and zig and zig, everyone is moving,

We hear the bones of the dancers banging,

A lascivious couple sits upon the moss

As if to taste ancient pleasures again.
.
Zig and zig and zag, Death continues,

Scraping without end his harsh-sounding violin.

A veil has fallen! The dancer is nude!

Her partner squeezes her amorously.
.
The lady is said to be a marchioness or baroness,

And the crude gallant a poor cartwright —

Horrors! And look, she gives herself to him

As though the churl were a baron!
.
Zig and zig and zig, what a saraband!

What circles of the dead, all holding hands!

Zig and zig and zag, we see in the crowd

King frolicking with peasant!
.
But shh! Suddenly the dance is over,

one pushes, one takes flight: the rooster has crowed;

Oh! A beautiful night for the poor world!

And long live Death and Equality!
.
Listen to Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà play Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns
.
On June 28, we will read and discuss poetry inspired by a piece of music, or vice-versa. Please bring your own favourite example and, preferably, post it on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections to-date.

 

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