Posts in Category: Musical settings

White Clouds by Lo Lang

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White Clouds is a musical poetry video that was filmed, directed and edited by the outstanding Taiwanese film-maker and poet, Ye Mimi, who released it to the web just two weeks ago. The story of the film…

This song is an adaptation of the poem “White Clouds” by Taiwanese poet Lo Lang (1927-2015). The recording was made by Lo’s daughter Sirong, a renowned, award-winning singer-songwriter in Taiwan. When Lo Lang wrote the poem in 1950, he was expressing his deep desire for freedom. At that time, many Taiwanese were suffering from extreme violence and political repression at the hands of the ruling Kuomingtang, which took over Taiwan after losing the Chinese Civil War to the Chinese Communists. This recording, made in 2018, marks a watershed moment for Lo Sirong and her now deceased father, as Taiwan flourishes today as a fully democratic society.

Lo Sirong sings White Clouds in the Hakka language. She has a marvellous voice, deeply expressive of her father’s poetry. The music overall is wonderful to hear. The English subtitles bring the welcome experience of the poem in written translation as well.

Ye Mimi’s earlier videopoems include I See Green and Golden Shadows as part of the Wild Whispers global videopoetry project, initiated by Chaucer Cameron in the UK. Dave shared three of Ye Mimi’s videos from earlier years here at Moving Poems, including from her own poems. One of these videos was also published by Cordite Poetry Review from Australia, where she wrote an interesting account of her relation to videopoetry.

Ye Mimi’s bio at Vimeo:

Ye Mimi is a Taiwanese poet and filmmaker. A graduate of the MFA Creative Writing Department at Dong Hwa University and the MFA Film Department at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she is the author of three volumes of poetry and has internationally exhibited several of her poetry films. Through collaging her words and images, she improvises a new landscape trying to erase the border between poetry and image making. Book-length translations of her work are available in Dutch and English.

Human Condition by Rich Ferguson

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Human Condition was written and performed by the one and only Rich Ferguson, beat poet laureate of California. For this spectacular film he teamed up with film director Mark Wilkinson and a marvellous ensemble of performers and musicians including gospel singer Stella Ademiluyi and James Morrison from the cast of Twin Peaks.

Rich has collaborated with other film-makers, and released a great series of videos with Chris Burdick. Most recently, while locked down in Los Angeles, he has started making them himself.

Human Condition is one of his best so far. It is highly musical, and at the same time funny, mournful and uplifting. The text of the poem is posted at YouTube in the video notes.

Breaks and Tunnel Vision by Kate Tempest

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No one straddles the line between music and poetry better than British spoken-word superstar Kate Tempest (website, Wikipedia page). Here’s a live performance in the studios of Seattle’s KEXP radio station of the closing tracks from Tempest’s 2016 album Let Them Eat Chaos. The video was edited by Justin Wilmore for KEXP’s popular YouTube channel.

Tempest’s band members are Kwake Bass on drums, Dan Carey on synths and Clare Uchima on keyboards. I wanted to contrast her extremely passionate and intense performance style, which is more than enough to carry a video, with the following film interpretation of “Tunnel Vision” on Tempest’s own channel:

London-based director Akinola Davies Jr (bio here) told mxdwn Music that it was “an honour to collaborate with an artist like Kate and be entrusted to make visuals that we both think best reflect and fit with the body of work she has created. She is an exceptional artist and the positivity of her team has been inspiring.” For the full credits (which are extensive: a reminder that professional music videos are typically made on a much higher budget than poetry films!) see the YouTube description. The video also appears on Davies’ Vimeo page.

Sonámbulo / The Sleepwalker by Theodore Ushev

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A surrealist journey through colours and shapes inspired by the poem Romance Sonámbulo by Federico García Lorca. Visual poetry in the rhythm of fantastic dreams and passionate nights.

This is a poetry film only in the sense that it takes its inspiration from one stanza of Lorca’s, but it’s a brilliant animated homage to Spanish surrealism that reminded me of everything I love about the whole Generation of ’27, which includes so many of my favorite poets and artists. It’s difficult to imagine 20th century poetry and art without this incredible flowering of talent in the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War. U.S. poets who came of age in the 1960s were heavily influenced by Spanish poetry in translation; I’d say it was equal in impact to translations of classical Chinese and Japanese poetry. For me, getting a bilingual anthology of 20th-century Spanish poetry as a Christmas present when I was 11 was a life-changing experience. I doubt I would’ve become a poet otherwise.

Anyway, here’s a serviceable English translation of “Romance Sonámbulo”, followed by the original.

For more about the film, see its webpage. Theodore Asenov Ushev is a Bulgarian animator, graphic designer, illustrator and multimedia artist based in Montreal.

Find a Way to Meet Each Other by Tasos Sagris + Whodoes

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A chaotic, hedonistic vision of—and soundtrack for—urban revolution. Greek videopoet Tasos Sagris collaborates with the musician/composer Whodoes. This is the digital single and official video clip from their upcoming LP, Phenomenology of the Guillotine.

Sagris directed the video, with camera work by Alkistis Kafetziis and actors Sissy Doutsiou, Lily Tsesmatzoglou, Katerina Pantouli, Ioanna Kordoni, and Anastasia. They sent us some promotional material, which is worth quoting at some length as one example of an alternative to the more standard ways in which poetry tends to be published and disseminated.

The TASOS SAGRIS + WHODOES duo presents the sound of endless metropolitan pressure. Through his poetry, Tasos Sagris photographs the current era on a political, social and existential level, domestically and globally, asking questions about the present and the future of this world, looking for moments of revolt and escape routes. The synthetic diversity of Whodoes enhances the emotional meaning of the words with post-rock, darkwave, ambient, new classical, avant-garde, electronica and ethnic compositions that travel lyrically while giving a cinematic dimension to the whole work.

The above mix with synchronized video art screenings in their live performances is a unique experience for the public, which makes it special in its artistic categories. Breaking the barrier of classical poetry gatherings, they tour for concerts and performances in Greece and in institutions of known value abroad, such as the Frankfurt School of Fine Arts (Portikus Museum), the London School of Economics, etc.

Tasos Sagris is a poet, theater director and activist born in Athens in 1972. In 1990 he co-created the international anarchist cultural group Void Network and at 2008 the Institute for Experimental Arts- a contemporary theater group for research, performance and cultural education. He tours often in Europe, Asia, Mexico and USA for talks, multimedia poetry actions, exhibitions, performances and theater shows. His poetry is a melancholic call out for chaos, revolt, hedonism and social awareness.

Tasos Sagris was poet and frontman of the Greek music band Horror Vacui during the 90s and from early 90s until today he presents poetry events – cross platform collaborations of poets, djs, video artists and musicians. Organizing for more than 30 years festivals, events and actions in public spaces around the world he is an anarchist artist from 21st century. He participates in social movements in Greece and Europe. […]

Whodoes was born in Greece-Athens in 1981. Whodoes’ music is a combination of ambient / soundtrack music, post rock, shoe-gaze, cinematographic electronica and ethnic soundscapes. His poetic sound works like a bridge for experiences of the past to the present and the future, while at the same time sensitively approaching the functions of life in direct connection with urban environments and secret nature. Guitarist – a composer, a true fan of experimentation, research and improvisation, sharpening his imagination using foreign bodies on the guitar such as effects, violin-bow, metal slide, e-bow, wood (turning the electric guitar in a Mediterranean traditional “Santuri” instrument), combined with the use of music technology, turntables, loops and programming creating a special sound with which he composes. With his own musical identity and style, he presents alone or together with poet Tasos Sagris a unique audiovisual spectacle on stage.

There’s a Facebook page for the duo.

Lockdown by Simon Armitage

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A brilliant music video/videopoem hybrid directed by Daniel Broadley for a new single by LYR, adapting a poem by Simon Armitage, the current poet laureate of the U.K. and all-’round mensch. I love the involvement of people under lockdown and the incorporation of visual text—it gives the video a real populist feel, while simultaneously gesturing toward visual and concrete poetry. And as music I think the soundtrack succeeds in being both catchy and inventive.

There was a Guardian article about the collaboration between Armitage and the band, but it didn’t say anything about the video, so I’ll quote the YouTube description instead:

Lockdown is a new song by LYR, featuring Florence Pugh and Pete Wareham of Melt Yourself Down. The song is set to a poem by poet laureate Simon Armitage, written in response to the coronavirus restrictions. ‘Lockdown’ moves from the outbreak of bubonic plague in Eyam, Derbyshire in the 17th century – when a bale of cloth sent from London inadvertently brought fleas carrying the plague – to the poem Meghadūta by the Sanskrit poet Kālidāsa, which follows the legend in which an exile sends words of reassurance to his wife in the Himalayas via a passing cloud.

The song was recorded and filmed remotely at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Proceeds from the release will go to Refuge, a UK-based charity providing specialist support for women and children experiencing domestic abuse. The video was directed by Daniel Broadley. Filmed in Bristol in May during lockdown, he asked locals to partake in the project from a safe distance, resulting in a series of smile-inducing clips.

Daniel says:
“I’m constantly looking for positives within this negative period of our lives. This project allowed me to reach out to Bristol locals from all walks of life, people who are outside my circle whom I would normally not have the pleasure of meeting, let alone collaborating with. Even at a distance I felt a wonderful connection with these people who all poured their time and energy into bringing this piece of work to life.”

For each download sold in the UK or accounted to Mercury KX in the UK, Mercury KX will donate £0.50 to Refuge (Registered Charity number 277424). 150 paid or ad funded streams shall count as 1 download.

Download it here.

Patti Smith at the Punch and Judy Theater by Jim Daniels

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Patti Smith at the Punch and Judy Theater is the latest film from Matt Mullins, a collaboration with Michigan poet Jim Daniels.

Jim’s poem was inspired by the experience of seeing Patti Smith in the ’70’s at a small theater in the Detroit area. By coincidence, Matt went to the same theater to see movies as a child.

Since watching their film I’ve read Jim’s poem in print, and watched a live version of “Gloria” by Patti Smith.

For the film’s sound composition, Matt has sampled just the first powerful line of Patti’s voice in “Gloria”. In audio editing he rearranges the sung phrases to form a new, minimal, poem-song in itself. This is in sympathetic contrast to the printed words of Jim’s poem, which appear on the screen. It’s as if they are two poems side by side.

Matt says of his approach to making the piece: “It’s pretty raw intentionally as I was trying to catch that Patti Smith vibe.”

I find it hauntingly emotional, deep, original.