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).