Posts in Category: Musical settings

Hail the Bodhisattva of Collected Junk by Yin Ni

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

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.


*List of screenings:

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


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

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

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 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

Poet: | Nationality: , | Filmmaker:

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

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

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

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

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.

Jayne Cortez live with Denardo Coleman: three poems

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:


1. Find Your Own Voice

2. I’m Gonna Shake

3. She Got He Got

The recent death of Jayne Cortez prompted a post on Metafilter calling attention to her pioneering and musically compelling work with jazz musicians. Though most of the YouTube material is audio-only, the above videos were expertly filmed and recorded. They’re from a concert/reading in 2010 with Denardo Coleman accompanying his mother on drums. Andrew Lynn directed, with camera work by Elanor Goldsmith, Ira McKinley and Joshua Thorson. The description on YouTube reads:

“A Dialogue Between Voice and Drums,” live at The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY on October 23, 2010. A firespitting evening with drummer Denardo Coleman, featuring a voice celebrated for her political, surrealistic, dynamic innovations in lyricism, and visceral sound. Cortez’s literary work and impassioned activism, inspired by the ideals of human dignity and social justice, have been called blues poetics, part of the foundation of hip hop and performance poetry. Denardo Coleman is a musician, composer, producer and drummer with the Ornette Coleman Quartet.

From the Hill-Top by Tomas Tranströmer

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Belgian musician S.A. Barstow, A.K.A. Teun De Voeght, has just released an album of adaptations of Tomas Tranströmer poems as translated by Robin Fulton. This is one of the ten tracks from that album. You can listen to the others on his Bandcamp page.