blackbirdonline journalSpring 2010  Vol. 9  No. 1

Commentary and Acknowledgments for Audio
of “Skandalon” and “The Nietzsche Horse”

  Tutelary Instruments, v2n2  


I have written before about my fascination with the relationship between music and poetry [Blackbird v2n2, “Tutelary Instruments”]. Ever since I began writing poems seriously some forty years ago, I have known that there is an intimate but well-nigh inexpressible link between the poems I write and the music I love. A long time ago I told myself: for me, poetry is a translation of music into language; very specifically, that was the guiding principle behind my last book of poems, The Infinity Sessions. All the while, I have been, in one way or another, a working musician. Two years ago my path crossed with my complementary doppleganger or lost conjoined twin Billy Cioffi, who, after a thirty-year stint in the great music mills of Hollywood had decamped to Phoenix and returned to complete a long-deferred university education. Just about the same age as I am, he took the right fork in the road that led to a career in music, all the while keeping one eye on the writer’s life, while I took the left fork toward a career in writing, but always with part of my heart in music. Comparing notes, swapping stories, and playing music together (I have for almost two years been the reed player with Billy’s band The Monte Carlos), we began to develop ideas that each of us were equally passionate about but that a collaboration made practically possible: I began writing lyrics for songs based on—“translated” from—certain poems of mine, for which Billy wrote music (though in fact the delegation of duties is less neat than this, as Billy, who is a deft lyricist, has a firm hand in that part of it, and I contribute here and there to the musical ideas).

For the past eight months—in the company of many excellent musicians—we have been recording something that might formerly have been known as an “album,” but as the internet has well-nigh murdered that concept we think of it as a song cluster, or perhaps a sort of oratorio. On the workbench is a long-term project—AmeriCamera, a coined word which as become not only the music itself but the consortium of people collaborating on it: The AmeriCamera Project, of which the present song cluster, operating under the subtitle “Highminded,” forms chapter one. In the meanwhile, Billy and I are also creating a performance mode that is new to us both. There is absolutely nothing orignal about performance that combines music and poetry, but we are making what I think is a new twist on an old mode. We have done performances that foreground poetry and background music, and also performances that background poetry and foreground music. The present recordings are part of The AmeriCamera Project, and will most likely evolve into a recording-cluster of poems with music to accompany my forthcoming book Ephemeron (LSU Press, forthcoming fall 2011), thus linking the publication of the book directly back to The AmeriCamera Project.   end

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