Thursday, March 26, 2009

Leonard Cohen and Poetry Project

After receiving a gift a few years ago, I have read and re-read Leonard Cohen's "Book of Longing" a collection of the musician/former Buddhist monk/poet's musings, lyrics, observations, and sketches from the past fifteen years.  I was reading through this again today, after recently getting an idea for combining music and poetry, that I will bring up later in this post, but came upon some great words:

Mercy Returns Me

A woman I want -
An honour I cover -
A place where I want my mind to dwell -
Then Mercy returns me
To the triad
And the crisis of the song.


the road is too long
the sky is too vast
the wandering heart
is homeless at last
-Leonard Cohen

These are basically notes to myself, but if anyone reads this, I hope they find enjoyment in the text. Leonard Cohen has a whimsical yet self-deprecating view of the world that is both humorous, enlightening, and humbling all in the same line.  Very human poet, voicing his common feelings to the world.

Continuing on my reference from earlier, I am currently involved in several projects, as well as very busy with school, but had an idea for a summer goal.  So I will as best as I can think, describe the goal, so I can come back to these writings and work on them more over the summer.  I would like to take a dozen poems or so of various authors I enjoy, and write music for them.  The poets I had in mind were Leonard Cohen, Rumi, Basho/Issa/Buson the great Haiku writers, Kerouac's haikus as well, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski, William Blake, Samuel Beckett, and a few more once I do some more research into the concept.  Off and on on this blog, like today, I will be posted poems with information on the poet, for catalogueing poems I find that may work well for this project.  
More on the actual project...  My goal is to have a different person recite and/or sing these poems, which are poems that "fit" with the given person selected to vocalize the text.  I will keep in mind the kind of poet when thinking about the music for the separate pieces.  For instance, Jack Kerouac uses spontaneous writing, with minimal editing, especially in works like his novel "On the Road."  To me, the music for Kerouac's haikus I select should be more towards the end of free improvisation, or a very simple rough sketch with emphasis on improvisation.  William Blake, in my mind, would have music behind it that would be more through composed.  I want every piece in this project to have a different ensemble, based on the text, with some pieces being solo (Solo Bass, Solo Vibes, Solo Percussion, in example), and if I can manage it, have some septet/octet pieces.  The instrumentation will honestly depend on the musicians that I can find that will be around in Greeley, CO over this summer, but will work with varying sounds as best I can.  I will try to incorporate more multi-tracking, and a few electronics, but mostly this will be live acoustic music working with voice.  Depending on the length of the poem, the text may be repeated several times, like in the short haiku form, or a long form poem would not have a repeat.  

The idea for the project came from a trio gig that the fellow "Matts" and myself performed with a middle school english class.  The kids would read poems they wrote, and then the musicians would talk about it quickly, and then come up with a soundscape for the second reading of the same piece.  I want to try this with a poem or two, have it read by itself, and on the next reading provide music, and if given a third reading of the same poem, expand the music even more.  Anyways, I lot of my thoughts put down about the project that I can add to later, but the important thing for me is to keep this archived so I can return to it later and work with to eventually realize an album of music working with these various poems.

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