Posts in Category: Musical settings

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.

Blood Constellations by Malika Ndlovu

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Blood Constellations is a beautifully made example of a poetry dance film, a genre showcased many times over the years at Moving Poems.

Boldly directed by Jim Demuth, based in London and China, the film is part of a broader, multi-disciplinary arts collaboration called Singing My Mother’s Song, which explores family and lineage. The overall director of the project is Bristol-based Rebecca Tantony.

The poet is Durban-born Malika Ndlovu, whose rich and passionate voice rings out in word and song on the soundtrack. It is compellingly danced by Nyaniso Dzedze, also in South Africa.

I was lucky enough to see the film in Athens earlier in December, where it screened at the International Video Poetry Festival.

Cuerpos de Agua (Water Bodies) by Lilián Pallares

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Half videopoem, half music video, this new film from antenablue — director Charles Olsen and poet Lilián Pallares — features Pallares acting and supplying the voiceover together with a musical arrangement of her poem by Nestor Paz and Manuel Madrid from Poesía Necesaria. Be sure to click the closed captioning (CC) icon to access Olsen’s English translation.