The First Cuts are the Deepest

Earlier this month I posted the Parlando Project audio pieces that were the most listened to as of the start of this Spring. Turns out it’s a pretty good mix of what Dave and I are trying to do with this combination of music and words. However, in looking at the stats for the Parlando pieces, it looks as if a lot of readers and listeners are coming in partway into the project, starting around the beginning of this year. That’s fine. I think I’m getting a little better as I work intensively on the goal of 100 Parlando Project pieces by August of this year, but I think some of the early pieces are missing the listenership they otherwise might have gotten if I’d posted them later.

Since we’re still in National Poetry Month (#npm17), it stuck me that this might be a good time for some of our audience to catch up. So here are a few of the 2016 Parlando Project “deep cuts” from last year that you might want to check out:

Stars Songs Faces.  I wrote the music for this Carl Sandburg poem as my tribute to David Bowie in January of 2016, and it was the piece I choose to kick-off Parlando. Although I’m not the first to write music for these Sandburg words, I still like what I did, and the LYL Band performance realizes my intention well. This piece also reminds me that it’s been awhile since I posted a Carl Sandburg-based piece here. I’m working on one this week, but the orchestration is not going as well as I’d like it to yet.

The Prairie.  One of things I enjoy most about coming up with material for the Parlando Project is finding things in the public domain poetry cannon that I’d never read or even heard of. This is one of them. William Cullen Bryant was not on my radar until Dave Moore visited the Mississippi river valley mounds last year and began to write about them himself. This audio piece is on the longer side, which may account for the lower number of listens.

The Green Fairy.  Here’s a good piece written and performed by Dave Moore that hasn’t been listened to as much as some other pieces he’s written here. My notes in the accompanying post were written in mystery about the actual intent of Dave’s words. I’ve probably got some other poets’ intent wrong too, but remember that’s one of the points of the Parlando Project: you can appreciate poems when they are accompanied with music just as one appreciates song lyrics (or even music without words at all), as bits and pieces of language that sound good, or as lines or phrases that attach themselves to you with little pieces of meaning without any requirement that you understand the whole thing.

This is the Darkness.  I ascribe the lower listenership on this one to the dark tone. And indeed it might be an odd piece to listen too in the late Spring as days get longer and eventually warmer here in the upper Midwest. None-the-less, living around the 45th Parallel Minnesotans and Canadians should understand this.

Christ and the Soldier.  When I was my son’s age, I was following a day-to-day summary in the newspaper, a series called “100 Years Ago in the Civil War”  which covered the events just out of memory of the living in the American Civil War.  And now, since 2014, I’ve been informally following the centenary of World War I, which has similarly passed out of the memory of the living.  Siegfried Sassoon’s poem is a biting comment on WWI from a veteran of that war’s trenches. You know that old saying “There are no atheists in a foxhole?” Sassoon has a more complex view.

How We Make the Parlando Project Pieces

I started work on the Parlando Project early in 2016 by learning how distribute audio pieces via web-based player I could embed here in this blog and also through “Podcasting” where audio is listed for download on directories such as iTunes, Google’s Play Store, Player.fm and the like. Throughout the spring and early summer of that year I worked with Dave Moore to record some pieces to “bank” for a launch I planned for August 6th.

Frank-Dave thoughts CLEANED

Dave and I look exactly like this today. Or we could if studied how to use Photoshop.

 

Dave and have written alongside each other for a great many years and played music together since 1979 in various line ups of the LYL Band. Adding the Parlando pieces to what we played seemed a natural outgrowth. Generally our approach to recording is very casual, particularly by modern standards. A great many things are not just first takes, they are only takes,  where the non-composer is working from a lead sheet on a piece they haven’t heard before. This is the same process favored by Miles Davis and Bob Dylan, comparisons that too much favor us as musicians, but the effect on the kind of playing that results is  there, even at our level.

First off, mistakes are inevitable, but you learn to try to understand mistakes quickly and try to find their hidden intentions. You listen intensely, because you have no other choice, there is no routine, learned,  part to fall back on. Arrangements just happen. The results are not polished, but in the best ones you can feel the excitement in the room when listening. And we give ourselves a punchers’ chance. In a 2 hour session we might record somewhere between 10 and 15 pieces. Most of them will be wild punches that don’t land, or strike only a glancing blow, but you only need to connect once.

Not everything we record is for the Parlando Project. Some things are for our own purposes and include material we do not have the rights to share with you.

Other pieces, the ones I record and play myself, follow a different path. I can think and work more compositionally if I choose, writing and considering parts. I record them myself, playing all the parts in turn. This is the modern way to go about it. I can achieve, within my limits as a musician, what I want to achieve. The cost is that I cannot achieve what I do not think I want to achieve, which can only happen when other musicians are involved.

I’ve looked for words to use for pieces continuously during this period. Since I have no knowledge on gaining usage rights for published work, almost everything Dave or I didn’t write here comes from works that are out of copyright and in the public domain. This process has been one of the unintended joys of the Parlando project, as I’ve learned more about writers I knew only in highlights like Yeats and Sassoon, and discovered writers I knew almost nothing about like Wheatley and Tagore. I’ve revisited old favorites of mine in Blake, Sandburg, and Dickinson, but also dipped my toes into translation with Du Fu and Pasternak.

As of yesterday’s post, we’re up to 67 pieces available here since the launch. My goal is 100 by the August 2017 anniversary. I’d estimate I’ve put perhaps a thousand hours into the Parlando Project since the start of 2016, all to produce less than 5 hours of audio combining surprising words with music as varied as I can compose and play. My goal is to introduce you to old work you thought you knew, new work that you will be happy to know, and to use the combination of music and words to create something uniquely powerful.

As we celebrate National Poetry Month I’m setting an April goal to have the most active month here in terms of the number of posts, of new audio pieces to stream, and of numbers of downloads. The audience grew substantially in March as folks are discovering us in various ways. If you’ve found something of value here, you can help us out by linking to your favorite piece on your blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter this month.

The Spring 2017 Top 10

Since this is National Poetry Month in the US I’m hoping that I can exceed the usual 7 to 8 posts a month pace I’ve kept up here since the Parlando project began last August. The next audio piece should be up this weekend. For those who haven’t read the early posts here about what the Parlando project is, I usually summarize it as:

The Parlando Project is words (mostly, but not always poetry) accompanied by music (various kinds).

The Parlando audio pieces have been downloaded by podcast subscribers since launch almost 4,000 times. Given that we are now past the halfway point, I thought it might interesting to let you know what the “Top Ten” downloads have been so far. In Casey Kasem form, we’ll count it down upwards from 10 to 1. There are links in the list if you missed one of these audio pieces and the posts about them.

10. The Spring of Dead Things. One of the 3 pieces in the top 10 where I wrote the words. That’s OK with me, but one of the Parlando Project aims is “Other People’s Stories” which leads me to feature other people’s words more often than not. There’s lots of folks reading their own poetry out there, which is good in itself—but there’s lots of people reading their own poetry, so think there’s an unmet need for reading others work.

9. The Garden of Trust. One of my personal favorites. Weston Noble’s thoughts on the power of music, hard-won thoughts he expressed after a lifetime of work, touched me the moment I first read them, and my feeling only deepened when I found I was able to hear him express those beautiful thoughts in a recording made before his death. My thanks again to Luther College for allowing me to use this recording in my piece. If you want to sample one thing that the Parlando Project represents, and it really doesn’t represent one thing, start here.

8. I Felt A Funeral in My Brain. Writing the Parlando music and considering the words for performance has deepened my appreciation for Emily Dickinson, whose words we’ve featured more than any other writer, and I rather like my music for this one as well.

7. For John Renbourn Dying Alone. I hope some of the listeners to this piece who like acoustic guitar music find this a gateway to Renbourn’s music.

6. Arthur Koestler’s Death Song.  Although we’ve featured Dave Moore reading and singing his own work here, and there will be more of that to come later this year, his Top 10 appearance is for a piece where he wrote the words and music, though I performed it.

5. Eros. I sometimes wonder if this one gets a bonus from those searching for or intrigued by its title. Another one where I’m happy with how the recording and the music turned out. I remind myself that I should learn more about Emerson’s Transcendentalist revolution.

4. 2ebruary. There’s no telling what the “bonus” may be that’s lead more people to this piece. It could be the discussion of the movie “Patterson”  in the notes, or it could be the connection to bicycling. Or perhaps it’s the connection to Frank O’Hara’s “I do this, I do that” poems that I treasure and try to emulate. If you like this, I have another bicycle ride poem coming up later this spring.

3. Boris Pasternak’s February. We’re into the top 3 now.  I was remarking to Dave Moore during a break in our recording session yesterday, that February rather than April should have been picked as National Poetry Month, as the deep dark end of winter engenders more cruel monthly poetry. Pasternak gets to help prove that point here. One regret I have with what we’ve done so far with the Parlando Project is that I have not received permission to post our version of Margaret Atwood’s “February”  here.

2. Hymn To Evening. Speaking of things I treasure, hearing Phillis Wheatley’s story on the Freedom Trail in Boston is another one. Art is this thing that, unlike even persons, no one can own. Colonialism is a system that crosses oceans to take things from other lands for profit. Art is the system that sends out messages that can crisscross time and oceans with the information inside our breasts.

dollar-bill

we’re offering pictures of our #1 Parlando Project author for only one dollar

 

1. Frances. Interesting that two pieces from the colonial United States are 1 and 2, and that a piece with words by an young amateur poet tops the list. Maybe this is a tribute to the Pixies/Nirvana loud/soft arrangement trick in the music? Or that when it comes to subjects, love conquers all? Or that acrostics are about to become a thing?

Please continue to read and listen this month. I have a lot of planned pieces I’ll think you’ll like coming up here. Remember that the Parlando Project seeks variety in music and words, so you may hear things you like as well as not like as we go along, but stick with us as we want to continue to surprise you. I also want to thank those that have hit the like buttons on their favorite posts, and those who have hit the RSS button to follow this blog.

Bonus Emily Dickinson links

 

Here’s someone that notes that the sublime Randall Munroe of ekcd.com had some fun with Emily Dickinson. Her post also reminds us of the Gilligan’s Island theme connection. I do like that Munroe has fun with the possibility that Emily was a bit of bad-ass, which the poetry says she was.

This video has lots of laughs, particularly for the introverts among us.

And for those who would note that the comic characterization in that video isn’t true to Emily Dickinson, here one that’s true to Dickenson’s power, still has a some jokes, while noting that use of hymn meter. Wish I could talk that fast and coherently.

Emily Dickinson

Bad-ass? No, just keep thinking I’m only a dainty lovelorn lady.

No Parlando Project music links on this one, but we’ll be back with more on Winter soon.

August launch for Parlando – The Place Where Music and Words Meet

Things are now in motion for “Parlando – The Place Where Music and Words Meet” to launch in August 2016. There’s going to be a podcast that will let you easily get and listen to the the new pieces as soon as they are released, so stay tuned for news on that.

The new pieces  are going to the the same, and different, than the ones here.

The same in that I’m going to combine words from different sources, and I’m going to be the reader on most of them, at least to start with. And things are going to be short, performances that you can deal with in the same amount of time you could in dealing with other forms of music, two to ten minutes. The audio pieces will be Music and Words Meeting, not words explaining. I don’t mind folks talking about writing, but I also don’t like that sort of thing getting in the way of enjoying the performances. Like the samples already here, the audio is going to remain purely performance. Sure, there will be posts like you’ve seen here about the background of the pieces, but I won’t let it in the way of the audio.

Different, in that there’s going to be more of them and my goal has always been to keep things as varied as the project’s resources allow. If you want to look forward, most of what has been already recorded during the past year has been rock’n’roll—that quaint 20th century form with loud guitars, bass, drums and keyboards—so that’s going to be heavily represented in the first new episodes. But don’t fear: bad jazz, electronic music, and wierdo folk/world music will find it’s way here too. Initially the words are going to be mostly from myself or a handful of local Minnesota writers where the rights issues can be handled easily, and from the those things that are out of copyright.

Thanks again for those that found me and listened to the test pieces posted here. Get ready to spread the word about Parlando – The Place Where Music and Words Meet.

Words, Music

One of my favorite attempts to define poetry is to call it “Words that want to break into song”.

What is it that poetry wants to do by striving to sing? I think it wants to include the pure pleasure of sound and rhythm to words. It wants that like a lover wants their beloved. It’s not a clever plan. Poetry’s desire here is not some technique, some tactic to dress up words in a fancy way. It just wants it.

And what about music? Well, it’s got its drives, its desires too. It wants to find its logic, its pattern. It’s always speaking to time, saying to time that it knows better than time itself how time sounds and moves. Music is always explaining to time what it contains.

I’m Not Here Yet

This is something of a temporary blog as I look at options for my next online project which will launch in 2016.

What’s that project to be?

It’s going to be called: Parlando – the place where music and words meet. I’m planning to feature words (mostly poetry) with music (various) with a regular podcast feed that you will be able to subscribe to.

I’m hoping the variety of music and words will surprise and delight you.  At times it’s going to be topical, and at times it’s going to presume to be timeless. Sometimes it will be noisy music with lots of parts rubbing and grating against the groove, and sometimes it will be a single acoustic instrument. At least at the start, I’m going to be the voice you hear most of the time, but my voice will often be playing a character. Some of the words I’m going to use will be mine, but they will also be words from anywhere.

Some of the other goals: words are going to be put into a new context by the music,  and you’re going to share some of the emotions from other lives