It’s time to report the most popular audio pieces posted here over this increasingly busy summer. Before I get to this season’s Top 10 countdown, I want to thank everyone who has listened, followed, liked, or shared our posts and audio pieces on social media or on other blogs. I don’t have time (or perhaps the talents) to do all the promotion that some other blogs do, so it’s the kind words and enthusiastic work that you readers/listeners do that has spread the news about this combination of various words with various music.
Lots of changes from our last Top 10, so let’s get started. There should be a player gadget after each piece on the list, so you can easily hear the audio combining those words with music we create and perform as part of the Parlando Project.
10th place? Turns out it’s a three-way tie for 10, and since the three pieces demonstrate the variety I seek to present here, let’s just dispense with tie-breakers and list all three audio pieces that are tied at number 10..
“Sonnet 18” is, so far, our only Shakespeare selection. Shakespeare is, or course, inescapable, and setting Shakespeare’s sonnets to music isn’t a rare thing either, but one of the good things that comes from the Shakespeare phenomenon is that a listener can hear a lot of different takes on one text. I choose to bring out the brag in this one.
“A Summer’s Night” uses a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first widely published Afro-American poet who died tragically young in 1906. A lot of Dunbar’s success during his lifetime was with dialect pieces which he had ambiguous feelings about. He sometimes said that he wished to be known more for his poetic work in standard English, something that “A Summer’s Night” demonstrates.
“On the Troop Ship To Gallipoli” demonstrates a small bit of artistic courage on my part to pay tribute to the real-world courage of Rupert Brooke, who died in service to his country in WWI. The “Great War” redrew the world’s maps, overturned several empires, and it also drew a literary dividing line, as post-war poetry embraced Modernism which made the poetic stylings of Brooke seem decades old only a few years after he wrote them. Those who lived through that time often adapted to the new ideas of modern poetry, but Brooke never had that chance. So, in this piece I recast a late fragment of Brooke’s words as if it was an Imagist poem.
In 9th place, we have “Zalka Peetruza (who was christened Lucy Jane),” which uses a poem by journalist and poet Roy Dandridge, who coincidently like Dunbar, was another Ohio Afro-American. By evidence of this poem, Dandridge deserves to be better known than he is, as it’s a tart observation of the art of getting over while Black, in this case by passing one’s self off as exotic.
8th place goes to a bit of a surprise, my slightly Beefheartian musical setting of two sections of Gertrude Stein’s “Tender Buttons.” Don VanVliet (Capt. Beefheart) and Gertrude Stein were both uncompromising artists who hoed their own rows, so I viscerally made the connection in creating this piece.
7th is Sir Walter Raleigh’s damning litany “The Lie.” It’s a poem I’ve loved since my youth and I don’t think one has to add much musical vengeance to amplify Raleigh’s words. 400 years old, and still pissed off.
6th slot goes to one of my translations, Rainer Maria Rilke’s “The Dark Interval.” I did this translation a few years ago, and it was intended to be a somewhat freer variation. As I learn more, I think my assumptions on what the poem was getting at were wrong, but this looser version got 20 more listens that it’s more literal translation I also presented here this summer.
Halfway to number 1, at number 5, is Parlando Project alternative reader Dave Moore’s tale “I Was Not Yet Awake.” Dave also plays many of the keyboard parts you hear here, including the organ part on this. “I Was Not Yet Awake” is short for a story, but longer than many pieces we present here. Dave’s story is so well told that it still managed to pick up a lot of listens this summer.
At number 4, dropping down from two straight appearance as number 1, is “Frances,” a teenaged George Washington’s acrostic love poem. That’s still a marvel, as week after week I look at stats and see that it’s still getting listens, long after its appearance here last February.
Top 3 time! In position 3 is “The Death of Apollinaire,” my translation of Dada principal Tristian Tzara’s surprisingly sincere eulogy for the multi-national poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire, who invented the term “Surrealism” and helped weave together many of the strands of European Modernism before he died from complications of wounds he suffered in WWI.
And in position #2, up one place from 3rd in the last Top 10, is Dave Moore enigmatic song “Love and Money.” It may offer an American answer to the question the Beatles once asked in “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
“The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat. No one left and no one came…”
Position number 1 is another return, and an even higher rise in the chart due to the large number of listens over this summer: “Adlestrop,” British poet Edward Thomas’ famous moment on train platform on a hot June 24th 1914, were nothing much happens, but everything palpably is.
The poem portrays the train’s stop as unscheduled, but research into train schedules (see them here in this blog post at The National Archives) says otherwise. Adding this element was a conscious choice by Thomas.
It’s a much-loved poem for many reasons. Some find extra resonance in the lines describing calmness in the tiny village train stop, the literal calm before the storm of WWI, and that’s a fine thought for those that hold it, but I believe the poem exists beyond those associations. “Adelstop’s” closing lines are sublime even without that particular war, that particular trauma to that specific nation, and as it was, to the ending of the life of its author Thomas, who became another of the poets killed in that war.