This summer I completed the goals I set out for the Parlando Project, which I originally envisioned as a one-year project to combine performances of various words with various music which I could present to the public here on this blog, or as podcast that could be automatically downloaded if desired. My original goals was to try to present 100 to 120 pieces during that year, and I hoped, despite (dare I hope, because of?) the variety that I would achieve a few thousand downloads for the entire series of pieces.
What a year it has been! The 100 pieces goal looked ambitious to me, and indeed the amount of time to write most of the music, produce and record the performances, and the research into their presentation—most of which remains unseen to the readers and listeners—was considerable. As of this week, there have been 128 Parlando Project pieces since our official launch. Hundreds of hours have gone into this year, and as with all such intense pursuits, the artist’s family gets to wonder why someone would spend that much time staring at the thing the artist is making instead of the very real people who surround them. That’s a very good question that no artist really has an answer for, save for most artists’ recognition that they seem to have no choice in the matter once they feel what the thing they are making could be. So I thank them. And Dave Moore, who’s not only written several of the most popular pieces here, he has been key to this. He’s allowed me to use his voice so you don’t have to always hear mine, as well as playing most of the keyboard parts on the Parlando Project music pieces. The Parlando Project wouldn’t be what it has been without Dave.
I suppose I should thank the muses too, but she thinks it’s a lyre,
even though it has no strings. Is it just part of an old chair?
Audience growth has been beyond my expectations over the year. Streaming web stats, at least as I get them and understand them, are less definitive than I would have hoped, but by this summer thousands of streams or downloads a month had become the norm. Blog readership here is more in line with my initial expectations, and lower than the podcast stream numbers, but the blog readership is still it’s growing steadily from what I can tell. This only concerns me in that the show notes with the podcast are a poor substitute for the richer presentation of the material about the piece in this blog, and through iTunes the show notes are about to get much briefer and simpler. Maybe this is a sign I should stop talking and simply Kick Out the Jams? If so, I’m going to be a bit dense and put even more emphasis on the blog in the next few months.
But I can’t leave this discussion on audience without thanking each of you who read this, and to thank several times over those of you who’ve linked to Parlando Project pieces on social media or other blogs, or who have taken the time to click the “like” star on a post here. I’m fine on focusing in close on creating what I hope are interesting pieces, but I’m not good at promoting them. You are the ones who’ve done much of that. I’m not always sure who’s done this linking, I only see the result when a piece starts getting more attention. If you’ve one of the readers/listeners who’s done so, and don’t mind saying so, please let me know in the comments.
Going forward I’m intending to keep the audio pieces coming. If I have the time, I even hope to spend a little more time looking for permissions to include works still under copyright. It’s distressing to me that there are authors whose work I’d love to present here, some of whom are long dead and whose work still speaks to us, but I feel constrained by law from doing so, and feeling lost as to the methods to get around this issue.
It’s this connection with authors who can no longer speak for themselves that has been a surprising, but most moving part this project. Reading and translating Du Fu, coming across writers I knew only as names like HD or T. E. Hulme. Finding out more about Yeats or Carl Sandburg, their poetry and politics. Finding out that Bob Dylan was the second or third songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for literature, and that the first Nobel songwriter, Rabindranath Tagore, was such a mammoth figure standing outside my view until I looked. Or that Christina Rossetti spoke to me more clearly as a poet than the other Pre-Raphaelites. Without this project I’d never have learned that I had this unscheduled train layover in the English village of Kingham one hot summer day just down the track from where Edward Thomas was still listening to all the birds in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. That the teenage love poem of George Washington still could have a listenership. That the simpler Emily Dickinson speaks, the more sharp the ambiguity, all needle and no embroidery. Hearing and relaying the words of Viola Davis about art being the “Only profession that celebrates what it is to live a life.”
I know I’m supposed to be inspiring and all,
but isn’t this blog post getting a little long?
So I’m going to continue here with the Parlando Project to “Tell Other People’s Stories,” but here, with this blog, I’m also going to spend some time talking about art, particularly about the intersection of music and words. These blog posts are going to be longer, perhaps more theoretical, but don’t fear too much theory. I’m still going to be elbow deep in making more Parlando project musical pieces, and work rounds off the sharp edges of theory.