This month, as I wondered what poem to explore through setting it with music, a voice — my voice from a portion of myself — often spoke up. “You still have sheets of poems by Kevin FitzPatrick that you typed-up after he died, ones you thought you might perform.”
This week I finally listened to myself.
In my studio space I have a short stack of those sheets, printed out when I thought I might perform them around a year ago. I picked this one up. I had scribbled some chords on it, and I now tried to recall what melody I’d planned over those chords on a day last spring when Dave Moore and I performed things we recalled of Kevin and Kevin’s poetry. That spring day, I had reordered and reduced that stack as the two of us alternated suggesting musical pieces. This one was shuffled to the bottom then. Had I not felt I had finished the composition? Could be. More likely? From what I could see on the page, it had more chord changes than things which work best when I hand them to Dave and he has to try to follow my eccentric phrasing in real-time.
I picked up a guitar and started running through the chords, trying to discover, or rediscover, a likely tune. In doing so I made a few alterations and after an hour or so of that, I sat at my acoustic guitar recording location in my studio space and performed the guitar and voice tracks of the song you can hear below. As I played, I was thinking of Kevin and some full measure of retirement, that as it turned out, he didn’t get.
But then, none of us know what we’ll get. Part of the reason I have had a rapid release schedule over the years with the Parlando Project — its get-it-down-and-move-on-to-the-next pace — is that factor. Not only do I skip over additional steps toward perfection, the amount of things released probably wears some listeners out. Though somewhat more talented, my fellow studio-rat Prince used to get pushback from his record company that he should trim back his output, that it was too much, bad for his career and their business. Well, should he have waited? Did he get enough time?
More playing with Adobe Firefly, the AI art generator that claims to not use uncompensated artists’ work.
Like most of Kevin’s poetry, his poem “Thinning Shade” doesn’t call out for my extemporaneous insights to direct the attention of readers. But while going through the process of composing the music and going over the performance, the poem did get deeper for me as it repeated in my ear. I see myself as his sparrows and that “fattening squirrel,” “pouncing on seeds…in fussy haste.…”
Extending Robert Hunter: Talk about your plenty, talk about your ills/One squirrel gathers what the fussy bird spills. Great analysis of the song “St. Stephen” linked here.
You can hear my performance of Kevin FitzPatrick’s poem as a song with the link below. As the poem reaches it’s volta, I decided to slow down and add a string sextet to my guitar accompaniment. You can hear it with the player gadget below. No player you can see? You haven’t missed your chance at gathering the seeds, there’s this backup link that will open an alternative player in a new tab.
Interested in reading more of Kevin FitzPatrick’s poetry? His books are available at this site, KevinFitzPatrickPoetry.com that I’ll link here.