September 20, 2006

From the Vaults

[9/20 update: all download links now work properly]

Well, the metaphorical ones anyway. In reality we're talking more of a drawer. Composers often talk about "top drawer" works or putting their pieces away in a drawer. While we at times exaggerate our accomplishments for professional gain, I can vouch that I have a bona-fide drawer where I keep my completed scores (we composers lead such interesting lives).

I don't know why Kenneth Patchen is so neglected as a poet (...and a novelist...and a visual artist). Emily Dickinson offered a definition for real poetry, something along the lines of that it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. This is a regular experience when I sit down to read Patchen. His writing is deeply felt in a way that makes you question the clutter in your life, whether the things with which you occupy your time get in the way of living well in the world.

His poetry was set most notably to music by John Cage (a radio play: The City Wears a Slouch Hat). Charles Mingus performed with Patchen, though I don't believe any of their sessions together were recorded (though his work with other improvisers was). There are a few other composers I know of who have worked with his texts.

A couple years ago, I joined this fine bunch by using some of Patchen's poetry for a cycle called Four Affections. There's no elaborate concept to the sequence, just an exploration of different nuances of love. The following performance features Scott Perkins singing and yours truly at the keys. The score is available on request.

I. From Hovenweep
II. "The Snow is Deep on the Ground"
III. "I'd Want Her Eyes to Fill With Wonder"
IV. Geography of Music

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