Posts in Category: Musical settings

Umeed-e-Sahar (Hope of the Dawn) by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

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Poem by the great Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Music and video by Laal

The ads at the top and bottom are an annoyance, but the interplay between the text of the poem and the drama in the video is too good to pass up. The Wikipedia article linked above says that Laal are

known for singing socialist political songs, especially those written by leftist Urdu poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Habib Jalib and Ahmed Faraz. The band received mainstream attention during the Lawyers’ Movement, in which it led support to the reinstatement of the then deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad. [...] Laal has not only managed to reconnect the people of Pakistan to the forgotten revolutionary socialist poets, but also introduced them to the youth

—which should serve as a reminder that, in some cultures, poetry still retains considerable power. (Hat-tip: verbal privilege.)

Arte Poética by Vicente Huidobro

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Poem by Vicente Huidobro

Music by Iván Lizama, performed by Ensamble Transiente – Música Experimental Latinoamericana (see YouTube for personnel)

Arte poética

Que el verso sea como una llave
Que abra mil puertas.
Una hoja cae; algo pasa volando;
Cuanto miren los ojos creado sea,
Y el alma del oyente quede temblando.

Inventa mundos nuevos y cuida tu palabra;
El adjetivo, cuando no da vida, mata.

Estamos en el ciclo de los nervios.
El músculo cuelga,
Como recuerdo, en los museos;
Mas no por eso tenemos menos fuerza:
El vigor verdadero
Reside en la cabeza.

Por qué cantáis la rosa, ¡oh Poetas!
Hacedla florecer en el poema;

Sólo para nosotros
Viven todas las cosas bajo el Sol.

El Poeta es un pequeño Dios.

Let poetry become a key
That opens a thousand doors.
A leaf falls; something flies past;
Let everything the eyes see be created,
And the listener’s soul keep trembling.

Invent new worlds and guard your word;
Unless it gives new life, the adjective kills.

We dwell in a circle of nerves.
Muscle hangs,
Like a memory, in museums,
But that doesn’t mean we have less strength.
True vigor
Comes from the head.

Poets! Why eulogize the rose?
Through the poem you can make it bloom.

Everything under the sun
Lives only for us.

The Poet is a little God.

My attempt at a translation. The last line became the slogan of the literary movement Huidobro founded, Creacionismo (“Creationism”).

The Soup by Charles Simic

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Poem by Charles Simic

Musical composition by Alden Jenks

Performed by the San Francisco Conservatory New Music Ensemble, conducted by Nicole Paiement, with mezzo-soprano Raeeka Shehabi Yaghmai

A brief peek into Yaghmai’s rehearsal with Jenks for the premiere performance of The Soup may be seen in this documentary about her from Bebin TV, starting at the 4:30 minute mark.

Red Rose 1 & 2 by A.H. Afrasiabi

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Poems by A.H. Afrasiabi, translated by Niloufar Talebi

Video from The Translation Project — a scene from Icarus/Rise, “a multimedia theatrical piece based on new Iranian poetry, created, translated and narrated by Niloufar Talebi, in collaboration with choreographer and video artist Alex Ketley and composer Bobak Salehi” (text from YouTube).

The Translation Project’s page goes on to say:

Based on the poetry in BELONGING: New Poetry by Iranians Around the World, ICARUS/RISE is inspired by the Iranian spoken word tradition of Naghali, which is practiced in the streets, cafes, public rituals, or ‘art music’ stage. By giving this spoken word tradition new content (new poetry in BELONGING) — rather than its usual content of classical Persian poetry and myths — and fusing it with western theatrical elements, ICARUS/RISE gives voice to hybrid-Iranians, reflecting their experience in contemporary society.

Todesfuge by Paul Celan

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Poem by Paul Celan

English translations: Michael Hamburger; John Felstiner; Jerome Rothenberg

Video by Philipp Fröndt, Max Straßer and Martin Race

This perhaps overly literal interpretation of the poem is the only one on YouTube to employ moving images. The slideshows, however, use a recording by Celan himself. Here’s the one I found the most effective:

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To put Celan’s reading in context, Gail Holst-Warhaft writes,

The Todesfuge has acquired a unique status among poems about the death camps. To many of its readers, it seemed to contradict Adorno’s famous dictum about the impossibility of writing poetry after Auschwitz. Of all Celan’s poems, the Todesfuge has been the most discussed, anthologized, and translated. Celan’s own reading of the poem, preserved on record, emphasized its relentless rhythm, an effect achieved by repetition, alliteration, and a dance-like beat that reinforces the grotesque musical imagery of a poem originally published in Romanian and called “Tango of Death.” The title recalls the Jewish musicians forced to perform by the S.S. At the Janowska camp near Lvov (not far from Celan’s birthplace in Czernowitz) Jewish musicians were ordered to play a “Death Tango” during marches, grave-digging, tortures, and executions. Before liquidating the camp, the S.S. shot all the musicians. At Auschwitz, the term “Death Tango” was used for whatever music was played when groups of prisoners were executed. Without the lilt of this macabre dance music, the poem loses much of its effect.

Inevitably, then, the poem attracted the attention of composers. Here’s a video of a live performance of Elmir Mirzoev’s setting:

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I Hang Myself by Saghi Ghahraman

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Poem by Saghi Ghahraman, translated from the Farsi by Niloufar Talebi — read it here

Video created by The Translation Project and Invision Productions for the DVD, Midnight Approaches
Narration by Niloufar Talebi
Dance by Larissa Verduzen
Percussion by royal hartigan

I discovered this organization and its very fine videos completely by accident last night — just doing keyword searches on YouTube. It’s not entirely clear who the performers are on this particular film; the credits for the DVD as a whole are at the bottom of this page.

Iran has one of the richest poetry traditions in the world, so I’m very pleased to be able to feature some contemporary Iranian poets here, thanks to The Translation Project.