Posts in Category: Musical settings

Sollozo por Pedro Jara (Weeping for Pedro Jara), IV by Efraín Jara Idrovo

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This is the fourth of a five-part audiovisual composition by Ecuadorian musician, composer and poet Paola Proaño for an MMus thesis at the Berklee College of Music, “An Audiovisual Approach to sollozo por pedro jara (1978) by Efraín Jara Idrovo.” Watch all five parts in order on her website, which also includes background on the poem and her composition:

Efraín Jara Idrovo (Cuenca, EC, 1926) finished this work in 1978. He wrote it for his son Pedro Jara after his suicide in 1974 at age 16. This is one of the most expressive poems I discovered thanks to an admired professor in April 2014.

Jara Idrovo’s approach to structure, rhythm and sound in this piece is unique. This work is divided into five series and each series consists of three parts. Inspired by its musicality/resemblance to musical compositional approaches, I started working in November 2015 on an audiovisual frame for this piece as part of my M.Mus. thesis. The project consisted, initially, in writing music inspired on the emotional content and avant-garde structure of this elegy and trying to find creative approaches to translate or adapt this poetic work into a composition for electric guitar. This is the “musical” element of the frame I wanted to provide for this poetry.

More information about the compositional process is available here.

In the end, these five resulting pieces are now part of five audiovisuals, which include the recitation of the poem, audio and footage editing that supports the emotional environment and English subtitles based on a translation by Dr. Cecilia Mafla Bustamante.

The purpose of my project is to make this elegy available in other “formats” and, therefore, hopefully, reach a broader audience for this beautiful poem.

For anybody interested in this elegy, I would like to share the following documents, which are available online. This is a compilation from sources cited below:

Purpose and reading instructions stated by the author (in Spanish) (screenshots of El mundo de las evidencias (1984) by Efraín Jara Idrovo available for partial preview in Google Books): Propósitos e instrucciones

Poem (in Spanish) (corrections made on online versions): sollozo por pedro jara – estructuras para una elegía

English translation by Dr. Cecilia Mafla Bustamante: Weeping for Pedro Jara – Structures for an Elegy

Proaño’s essay on her composition process is also well worth checking out. She doesn’t say anything about her process for choosing the film images, which I find generally successful, erring more on the side of arbitrariness than literal illustration. I am especially impressed by the scope and ambition of this project and the music-first approach to poetry filmmaking. At any rate, do go watch all five parts, and if the Wix site doesn’t display properly in your browser, watch them on Vimeo.

dear padmarajan by Nitin Nath

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Nitin Nath is the poet and performer in this musical short directed by Sumesh Lal with music rearranged and produced by Govind Menon. Like yesterday’s video, this poetry film was released as a trailer for a feature-length movie. But there’s an additional connection with the world of film here: the poem is a tribute to the great Malayalam director P. Padmarajan.

India’s first spoken word musical, ‘dear padmarajan’ is a prologue to the independent English feature film ‘Humans of Someone’, slated for release this March 2016.

‘Humans of Someone’ tells the story of a man who gets obsessed with a filmmaker whose films become inextricably entwined with his own life. WATCH THIS exclusive introduction to warm up to the neighbourhood of the film.

The prologue is our heart-sized ode to the dramatic genius of P. Padmarajan, one of the greatest storytellers we’ve ever known.

To support the film, follow facebook.com/humansofsomeone

Click through to YouTube for the unusually complete credits, which include a list of the Padmarajan films mentioned plus other references in the poem.

Hail the Bodhisattva of Collected Junk by Yin Ni

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A new poetry film from the Taiwanese filmmaker Ye Mimi is always an event. This one features a musical adaptation of a poem by Yin Ni from singer-songwriter Lo Sirong, performed with Gomoteu. The English translation in subtitles is by David Chen. Here’s the Vimeo description:

This experimental music video is based on a poem that both satirizes and celebrates local culture in Taiwan. “Hail the Bodhisattva of Collected Junk,” the title of both the song and the poem, is a play on the Buddhist phrase “Hail the Bodhisattva Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy.” The poem refers to local junk vendors, who repeatedly call out “sell them to me” as they walk from neighborhood to neighborhood looking for unwanted household items, typically scrap metal, tools and electronics.

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*List of screenings:

2015
The Kuala Lumpur Experimental Film and Video Festival, Malaysia
7th Cairo Video Festival, Egypt
Experimenta–8th International Festival of Moving Image Art in India, Bangalore

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A poem by Yin Ni
Music by Lo Sirong
Performed by Lo Sirong and Gomoteu
Filmed and edited by Ye Mimi

In North America and Western Europe, we tend to think of street poetry as this gritty, youth-driven, hyper-competitive and aggressive thing, but in most parts of the world, the streets and markets are wellsprings of a much more diverse and mature oral culture, and I think this filmpoem captures that brilliantly. Hail the Bodhisattva of Collected Junk offers a unique glimpse into popular Buddhism and Taiwanese vernacular culture, and manages to seem simultaneously light-hearted and profound in a manner reminiscent of Erasmus or Rabelais.

“wherelings whenlings” by e.e. cummings as interpreted by John Cage

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A beautifully filmed rendition of John Cage’s composition Forever and Sunsmell, performed by Dorothy Gal, Christopher Salvito, and Jessica Tsang and filmed and recorded by Christopher Salvito.

The title and text of Forever and Sunsmell are from 26, one of 50 poems (1940) by e.e. cummings. Some lines and words have been omitted, others have been repeated or used in an order other than that of the original. The humming and vocalise (not part of the poem) are an interpolation.

That’s from the video description. There’s a longer analysis of the piece at allmusic.com that talks about its place in Cage’s artistic development. For the complete text of the original poem, click through to Vimeo.

The Hollow Men by T. S. Eliot

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I think “The Hollow Men” has just found its ideal multimedia interpretation. I remember being utterly enthralled with Eliot’s poem at age 13, and this projection performance video from the artist duo Decomposing PianosJulia Krolik and Owen Fernley—brings it all back. Here’s the description:

T.S. Eliot’s 1925 poem The Hollow Men is spoken in unison by a trio of computer generated voices. Photography, code-generated video, original music and choreography are combined for performance. This work was part of Chipped Off’s wasteAWAY.

Performed: June 4th to 6th, 2015 at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Kingston ON.
Dancers: Meredith Dault, Tracey Guptill & Helena Marks
Chipped Off: Kim Renders, Robin McDonald and Dan Vena

See Facebook for more on the Chipped Off Performance Collective.

A Boy by John Ashbery

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John Ashbery reads his poem (from Some Trees, 1956) in this film by Kurtis Hough with original music composed by Christopher Tignor, from the album Thunder Lay Down in the Heart. The Vimeo description quotes Tignor:

The poem “A Boy” rang out to me while I was writing “Thunder Lay Down in the Heart”. Titles usually come in response to the music and I often find myself looking through books of poetry to turn my mind on in that way. I studied poetry myself with John Ashbery many years ago while a student Bard College – indeed he was my advisor. I really responded to the inner psychic conflict of the protagonist against the visceral narrative tension of the storm – the sound, like thunder, of falling “from shelf to shelf of someone’s rage”, the rain at night against the box cars, the inevitable flood.
But to say I’ve completely understood the poem – on whatever terms – is to short change its mystery. I find something new in this poem every time I read it. It’s precisely that kind of altruistic unfolding that I hoped to embody in my musical work with its own flooded lines, dry fields of lightning, and cabbage roses. One reviewer recently described the work as its own “vast electrical disturbance”. Hard to disagree.

For more information on the album, see the Western Vinyl catalog description.

The story of Thunder Lay Down in the Heart begins with the poem “A Boy” written in 1956 by John Ashbery, well before he became the world renown, Pulitzer Prize winning poet we know him as today. In a rare collaboration, Tignor recorded Ashbery reading the work in his Chelsea apartment, surrounding it with his own original musical setting for strings that opens the record. A line from this poem became the title of Tignor’s twenty-minute work for string orchestra, electronics, and drums, featuring eminent Boston-based ensemble A Far Cry. The album’s B side continues the process of reinterpretation as Tignor electronically reimagines and remixes the title piece into “The Listening Machines” and “To Draw a Perfect Circle”, creating spellbinding ambient adventures derived directly from the tapes of this ensemble’s gut-wrenching virtuoso performance. Ending as we began with collaboration, the record’s final remix, “First, Impressions”, was created with composer / pianist Rachel Grimes (of Rachel’s).

Read the rest.

Shadows by Langston Hughes

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I suppose this is technically a music video rather than a videopoem, but it strikes me as much closer to the latter genre to the former — save for the fact that the poem takes the form of a very beautiful art song.

Composed by Lior Rosner
Soprano: Janai Brugger
Directed and After Effects by Tal Rosner
DoP: Adam Woodhall
Dancers: Cameron McMillan, Fiona Merz

About the project:
One of America’s greatest poets, Langston Hughes was a social activist and early innovator of jazz poetry. Hughes distilled the experience of his generation of African Americans into poems that sang in his clear and unapologetic voice. In “In Time of Silver Rain: Seven Poems by Langston Hughes,” composer Lior Rosner uses his music to liberate Hughes’ words from the boundaries of historical context. Rosner’s modern settings challenge us to consider the contemporary relevance of Hughes’ frank and often searing meditations on the universal themes of oppression, loss, frustration and love. While the emotions captured in these songs are indeed timeless, beneath the undeniable modernity of Rosner’s music, there are subtle harmonic nods to the jazz that provided the sonic backdrop for the Harlem Renaissance.

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