Voice to Voice Class Plans and Prompts

Many of our members have conflicts or can’t make every session so we made an effort to post the prompts we used in class so they could follow along. Here is a rollback through what we did each class during the Voice to Voice project. You are welcome to use these ideas yourself for fun or teaching, but it would be nice if you credited Thursdays Writing Collective and Elee Kraljii Gardiner.

June 11, 2015

This was our last class of the Voice to Voice project. We are now on break for the summer.

Prompt: “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”  Charles Dickens

Prompt: “…and because the light will enlarge your days, your dreams at night will be as strange as the jars of octopus you saw once in a fisherman’s boat under the summer moon…” Robert Hass

Prompt: “I hope your rambles have been sweet, and your reveries spacious.” Emily Dickinson

We also filled out feedback forms to make sure everyone is getting what they want and need from the Collective. Very useful!

See you September 17, 2015!

 

June 4, 2015

Our prompt on the board was: jangling the words

We heard some musical, rhythmic pieces, some references to Christmas, some beautiful experimental pieces.

We talked about a workshop I (Elee) attended at the excellent Artsong Lab 2015 program with Fred Wah where Fred spoke about his trajectory as a musician and poet. I shared with the writers Fred’s ideas about questioning/disturbing/rupturing the status quo of the line. We read his piece “Music at the Heart of Thinking One Oh Eight” several times out loud, listening for varied emphasis and meaning.

An erasure of Fred Wah's text leads to a a new text. The circled words are the ones that comprise the new poem.

An erasure of Fred Wah’s text leads to a a new text. The circled words are the ones that comprise the new poem.

 

Here’s a snapshot of another text produced:

photo 2

 

Several other writers typed up their pieces so we could post them here and share them with Fred. We were experimenting with this Gertrude Stein-y way of running along into rhythm and dancing with word combos.

Can you come closer to me
and sing or run me a cup
of coffee that never runs out
in the fields of bronze
sun burns huge deep scars
into small cars many good people
can fit in like when we were
young my heart keeps beat in
away the love has gone
for vacation by the sea
swimming in the deep green
lawn is moved every Sunday
the god sleeps the crowd
weeps into cloth handkerchiefs
fabricated in sweat shops
are closed for the season
and I keep dreamin of a
better grin on your face
when I say you’re welcome
cause you really are

by Jano Klimas

 

Jangles

I was thinking along and I was singing a song and ringing a bell hells bells tells a story very boring needless to say I didn’t need to stay say sorry today but when we all go down to the beach a towel to reach the sky so high you need sunscreen not this dream just for the day don’t get far behind you’ll lose your mind we are all friends and now it ends.

Cindy McBride, 4 June 2015

 

                                   IF

If an egg were to be opened like a

fingers pressed against the edge of

firmness we could start the whole

egg white and yolk and mixing by

bringing in the hand and then later

shaking it as if it were the sky full

of weather swirling the light and

the dark into a face and making it

all fall as one large and shining tear.

by d.n. simmers

 

So Much Depends Upon the Things Unspoken

Words unspoken even worse than words uttered correctly
breathing other people’s hearts of spirits.
Human beings are not old shoes to be discarded
thrown away, roughly kicked aside
not even given time to pick their wounds
or pick themselves up.

In relationship we should remember
do no harm.

by Joan Morelli

 

A Word Jangling Game

Jangling with the jingle jangle
all the letters of the alphabets
as though they are written on caps,
and find out the many words
we can make with the jangles
through different combinations.

We are now jangling the words
and playing another game here.
We shuffle the tiles of words we made,
and place all the word tile
face down on the table.

We start to pick the different words,
to begin making senseless phrases,
or even meaningless sentences,
ones that confuse our audience
and the opponents we play with.

We jingle jangle words for fun’s sake
and make confusing gibberish sentences
and watch our audience’s faces
get confused and lost in the meanings.

by Ghia Aweida

 

where to start oh keep to me oh

sacred heart cart and lark

you’re looking smart smooth the

plain like a wayward dart

where to start is when to

stop lop and lap to leisure’s

breeze does the clusters

fluster tease

the night watchman please

marred banks and scuffled

heels tell yeah how it feels

not just joking and pre-

voken but broken

the clue is the sinew as

it bleeds

as your doldrum eyes

plead   think not the mortar

as your creed

but the stallion horse

your steed

by Roger Stewart

 

 

 

little sock of baby’s breath rests

sadly beside the tender button

on the jokin front of the down side

inside the side of a wheeling clock

to tick tock back up to sideways

ways beyond jump into the the baby’s

sock with breath breathed backwards

ways by the side of smoke stokin

the l m n’s the m n m’s in the

sock with the baby chokin burp

burp gulp yep go go go roast

the potatoes on the heart of a

chicken beside the so much

depending on nothing but yokes

and chokes and eggs inside the

unbroken, cracked sock, sewed

shell gapped unspoken in the

spoken wheel on a bicycle by

the hill

by Anne Watson

After a vivid discussion about the challenges of writing one long sentence (for one writer it tripped alarm bells of grammar class and a terrible teacher) we turned to Robert Priest’s book Rosa Rose, poems on social justice for kids (and adults!). James Witwicki read his poem “Ali Wouldn’t Fight” which we heard Priest perform at the Verses Festival when we performed there this April. Lots of sound and rhythm in this one, too!photo 3

 

 

May 28, 2015

Prompt: title

Prompt: You are in a bookstore and see a book you wrote. What is the title? What does the back blurb say?

Prompt: I read a few titles generated from this site: http://www.kitt.net/php/title.php

So silly, so strange. Some of the titles included, “The Something of the Male,” “The Lover of the Nobody,” ” The Frozen Eyes.”

We received free copies of two issues of  SubTerrain literary magazine and did a oulipo exercise of opening to a certain page (one writer picked a random number between 1 and 70) and we selected a title or phrase to use as a prompt.

Thank you, SubTerrain, for the excellent literature! We appreciate it!

May 21, 2015

Prompt: chameleon hours

The prompt comes from Thursdays supporter Elise Partridge, who died on Jan 31, 2015. Her second book has this title and we found much to discuss in a close reading of two of her poems. We kept thinking we were done but then discovered another layer of meaning.

We read “Snail Halfway Across the Road” and “Heron, Tampa” – the closer we looked the more we found inside these verses.

Later that night many members joined the community to launch Elise’s third book, The Exiles’ Gallery. Beautiful night of poetic connection!

May 14- no class

May 7, 2015

Prompt: This is your brain on music

The prompt is a title of a book recommended by Raoul Fernandes. Several of us had read it but we reaped lush responses anyway.

Raoul also suggested “The Singing Neanderthals“, another book title we used as a prompt.

And then some quotes to react to:

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

“People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands – literally thousands – of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.”

Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

“Love is friendship set to music.”

Jackson Pollock

“This machine kills fascists.”

Woody Guthrie

 

April 30, 2015

Writing Prompt: what needs to change

This prompt gave way to several general directives about improving society, as well as some cataloguing of things that trouble us. It also led to an interesting discussion on inclusive language and political correctness.

Here is an interesting take on guideline on inclusive language from UVic for anyone who would like to learn more.  Language being a mutable, changing, lively organism, it’s fascinating to partake in its development and identify which words relate to our current reality.

Donna shared the differences between Aristotelian rhetorical devices (logos: reasoning; ethos, a call to a greater good, and pathos: call to emotion.) We found that we are naturally familiar with these devices, several of us having exercised them fluidly in letters to the editor, Facebook posts or rants.

Several authors donated books from their shelves to Thursdays Writing Collective. So did Hager Books. We had three boxes’ worth to scour. One of them was Stephen King’s On Writing. Thank you for the excellent reading material!

Writing Prompt: “I was signing autographs at a Los Angeles book store.” – Stephen King, On Writing

Writing Prompt: “Harry had hooks instead of hands” – Stephen King, On Writing

Writing Prompt: “It stung and it tasted awful.” – Stephen King, On Writing

We spoke briefly of enjambment and how turning the line (breaking the line) at a certain point can torque the tension or meaning of a poem. Here is one of the finest examples of this: Jeramy Dodd’s The Diorama of Our Future Breakup. 

“You have to write across the line.” – Patrick Foley, on exploration and breaking out of writing habits.

April 23, 2015

Writing prompt: applaud

We did a run of rapid-fire prompts. Six minutes each.

Writing prompt: I know you are listening because

Writing prompt: the fiercest song I ever heard

This yielded interesting results. Anupam wrote about the fire that caught a few streets away from Carnegie and destroyed a bakery. James wrote about Beyoncé. Here’s Anupam’s piece:

The fiercest song I ever heard wasn’t written by any musician or composer.  In fact, it wasn’t written by anyone at all.   
It was just two days ago.  My eyes heard it first – the billowing smoke, the grey clouds, the police tape.  And then the voices followed – the crackles, the gushing water hoses, the sirens, the gasps.  How long is this song, I wondered?  And what will remain when the final note is sung?  
Today I passed by that same old Chinatown street.  “The song swallowed me whole” is what it would have sung if it still had a voice.
1979 to 2015.  Daisy Garden – Rest in Peace.  
Oh Rock Garden, what song will you sing next?

Writing prompt: I ate the song bird

Writing prompt: the song swallowed me whole

Writing prompt: stand still like the hummingbird

April 16, 2015

A spate of summer weather hit.

Writing prompt: when the Oldsmobile has got the top down on it

The strange syntax both inspired and confounded us. Here’s the secret: it came from Jonathan Richman’s song Summer Feeling. You can watch the video, although we didn’t in class.

Writing prompt: that summer feeling is going to haunt you the rest of your life

Writing prompt: do you really long for her or the way you were?

April 2, 2015

Writing Prompt: premiere/debut

This was a class before our first Voice to Voice concert. We practiced reading our poems and we spoke about what we were going to accomplish.

March 26, 2015

Our first prompt: writing muscle

Writing Exercise: Write bios for the Voice to Voice book!

Writing exercise: the spy who fired me (lifted from James Witwicki’s magazine cover on the spur of the moment). The results from this were hilarious.

March 19, 2015

We are filming a little mini doc about what we do: stay tuned for details. This session Mateo Zepeda, a digital storyteller, recorded parts of our class. Mateo’s work is rooted in anti-oppression theory and he was a gentle, inclusive presence. Our first prompt was “musically speaking.”

Our second was: (how) does writing unite us?

March 12, 2015 

Big thanks to Sophie McCall for putting us in touch with an incredible book: Devil in Deerskins: My Life with Grey Owl by Anahareo.

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Sophie edited and wrote the forward to the reissue of this important First Nations text that was a bestseller in the 70s. She provided us with 12 copies that we shared around between us.

Sophie visited class bringing with her Katherine Swarthile, one of Anahareo’s daughters. An extra bonus: Katherine’s daughter Shirley Dawn came, too! We had a wide ranging conversation about racism, writing, public appearance, passing, history, memoir, life with elders.

Out of this visit came an opportunity for James Witwicki who wrote a review/report of the event for Megaphone magazine.

 

March 5, 2015

We checked in that everyone was ok after the haz mat issue in the Port of Vancouver that sent clouds of chemicals into the air. Carnegie was a shelter for anyone who needed it and the odour of the chemicals was undetectable inside. We’re glad everyone as ok.

We had a prompt from Henry David Thoreau as a first exercise: “I love a wide margin to my life.”

After we responded to that we shared the context from the site The Millions:

The artist Mark Slouka quotes Henry David Thoreau’s soft words of contemplation — “I love a wide margin to my life” — before admitting his own fear of a perfect silence. And yet “if silence is the enemy of art, it is also its motivation and medium: the greatest works not only draw on silence for inspiration but use it, flirt with it, turn it, for a time, against itself.”

Then we moved to an essay by Matthew Zapruder from Boston Review titled The Difference Between Poetry and Song Lyrics. We used it as a writing prompt- some of us answered back, contested the points, agreed, demonstrated it via poems, created fiction scenes based on the premise, did erasure poems and even responded with something like a song.

When I posted about it on Facebook, Matthew Zapruder responded with these comments:

I hope it was helpful. I have two thing your class might be interested in, first is this, which is going to the NPR First Listen in a couple of weeks, music by the amazing Missy Mazzoli and words by me http://www.missymazzoli.com/vespers/

and also this http://www.spdbooks.org/…/9780984475261/pink-thunder.aspx which is my brother’s amazing poetry and song project

and in fact also this, which I did not know was on the internet! http://www.uctv.tv/…/Gabriel-Kahane-Come-On-All-You…

Thank you, Matthew! I love the fact we can reach out to writers and connect instantly this way.

February 26, 2015

Kate Braid came to read and write with us. She brought her collaboration pal Clyde Reed. Clyde hefted his double bass into Carnegie and sat with us while Kate shared some excellent writing prompts with us. One was “the most beautiful sound I ever heard” and another was “the sound was like” or “I heard a bell and…”. She talked to us about “anaphora” – the practice of repeating a word or phrase and invited us to experiment with repeating one of the phrases above in a poem.

Kate explained the importance of free writing in her own practice. As she says, ” Usually the days I feel there’s nothing there are the days there is something blocking my heart and thinking.” Doing some timed, constant writing can get one through that and lead to some insight.

In hour two we went down to the theatre and Clyde unpacked his gear. He and Kate did an improvised setting of two her poems from A Well-Mannered Storm, a book of poems in the voice of pianist Glenn Gould.

Here are some snippets. The audio is not great; you’ll have to jack the volume.

What is exceptional is the quality of these impromptu writing exercises and the absolute ownership the writers exhibit in this beautiful improvisation.










 

February 19, 2015

Today we honoured the funders who are supporting our publishing by trying our hands at the prompts they suggested.

The first prompt was simply: Regina

If you are writing at home, you might not want to read further until you have tried the prompt yourself. You may enjoy deciding your own direction before hearing about where we went.

This enigmatic one word gave some of us some trouble but opened a portal to the Prairies and beyond for others.

Among the pieces shared we heard about:

How “Regina” is used in court to represent the idea of the Queen and how she becomes the opponent named in court cases

The physical prairie landscape

The imaginary canonization of Saint Regina

Elizabeth (Rex) Regina attending the Vagina Monologues

An associative train of Regina’s symbols, teams and landscape characteristics

Racism in Winnipeg against First Nations people

A sound poem about refridgerated jar juices

Bennett’s relief camps and digging holes just to fill them

A limerick

We spoke about the massive hail storms and heard from several people with firsthand experience – watching collar bones broken by hail, cars pockmarked by it, fields of duram destroyed by the hailstorm.

Thank you, Salty Bill, for sending us this prompt and supporting our writing!

After this we turned to the seven words that our Indiegogo funders sent us that will appear SOMEWHERE in the Voice to Voice book.

We printed the words on the board and let the writers spend the second half of the session picking and choosing the words to write about.

Othering

Staccato

Dirge

Interval

Shift

Dragonfly

A

This last word comes to us from Elise Partridge, a supporter and cheerleader for Thursdays Writing Collective who died several weeks ago. Elise spent quite a while thinking over her word choice to send us and sent a beautiful email explaining her landing on the simple word “a.” She thought about suggesting a complicated word, a flashy word, a word that would illicit strong responses from us. But in the end she settled on “a” because it is deceptively powerful, declarative and utilitarian. Rather than impose her idea of what she wanted us to write, Elise gave us the chance to go where our creative attention desired.

A memorial will be held for her on Feb. 28 at 2 p.m., at Cecil Green Park House on the UBC campus. All are welcome.

Elise’s new book The Exile’s Gallery is coming out with Anansi this spring and we will be launching it here in Vancouver. Information is also posted on her website and a Facebook page to support her writing and legacy.

 

February 12, 2015

The first class of our 15th session and of our eighth year!

We were packed. New members, chomping-at-the-bit regulars and so much energy that we were clapping and applauding after every text was shared! Clearly, this group of writers missed our weekly practice.

Writing Prompt: think about texture

Discuss: When we talk about a piece of writing or a piece of music, what do we mean when we talk about it’s texture? Find examples of what was just shared to talk about texture. Long, slow lines? Short and tight?

Pianists talk about a texture of the hands, flute players talk about the texture of the breath. What have you experienced with texture?

Notice the texture of “Love Me Do” by the Beatles. How would you describe it? Write about that.

Prompt: Barcarolle: A barcarole (from French, also barcarolle; originally, Italian barcarola or barcaruola, from barca ‘boat’) is a folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers, or a piece of music composed in that style. Here is the barcarole from Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman.

What do you notice about the texture or rhythm or pacing of this? How does it relate to its environment?

Think about adapting the Venetian gondola love song to our space. What would a Vancouver version look like? SkyTrain songs? Footpath raps? An alley chant? What do you notice about life and how might you talk/write/sing about its texture?

And just to make sure nobody misses these vital announcements we shared, I have posted them under “Sessions” on this website where you can find more detailed calendar info.

Thursdays Writing Collective Dates and Deadlines

We are in session Feb 12, 2015 until June 11, 2015. We meet every Thursday from 2-4pm (unless otherwise noted below) at Carnegie Community Centre at Hastings and Main Street in Vancouver, BC. Everyone is welcome.

Contact Elee with any questions, ideas or concerns at thursdayseditor@telus.net or 604 202 0072

Feb 26, 2015 

Author Kate Braid is our guest, speaking and reading to us from her book, A Well Mannered Storm, about pianist Glenn Gould. The first half of our class will be a conversation and writing session with Kate. For the second half we will move downstairs to the Carnegie Community Centre theatre to welcome her pal and collaborator Clyde Reed. Clyde is bringing his stand up bass and will experiment with improv mucis as we read!

March 12, 2015

Author Katherine Swarthile is our guest, speaking and reading to us about her mother’s book Devil in Deerskins. If you need a copy, let me know. We have extras in the classroom.

March 12, 2015

DEADLINE for text submissions for the Voice to Voice book.

  • Email Elee or hand them to Elee or Molly! No excuses!
  • Spread the word, please, so no one is surprised or left out.
  • You are welcome to submit as many pieces of writing from September 2015 onward as you want. Texts ought to have something to do with music or transformation. Nothing allowed from OUTSIDE of our work together (no 10 yr old poems or pieces from another project.)
  • If you have questions, send it to Elee or ask!
  • Please give handwritten texts to Neil, Molly or Gilles if you need them typed.
  • Please save your text as a word doc with a title with your name in it. For example: “EleeKG.Rain Music.doc”. Use 12pt font, Times New Roman. No colours, please.
  • We will include a piece from everyone. We will include all the pieces we gave the composers in December. If you have many submissions you will decide with Elee how many is appropriate and which ones to include so we have room for everyone.

 April 2, 2015

Voice to Voice Premiere Concert at evening at UBC’s School of Music!

Details to follow. I am trying to arrange a bus for us from Carnegie.

April 16, 2015

Voice to Voice Downtown Premiere at evening at St James Church. Details to come.

We need volunteers for publicity and helping organize these two concerts. Please contact Elee or Molly.

April 26, 2015

Hullabaloo at Verses Festival, evening, York Theatre, Molly Ancel riffs for two minutes about Thursdays Writing Collective to drum up interest in our group reading two days later. We have free passes to the Verses Festival, a massive poetry festival in Vancouver. Contact Molly to get a pass and for info.

April 27, 2015

We need two readers from Thursdays Writing Collective to join Elee Kraljii Gardiner at “Honey, Hives, and Poetry in the City”at Vancouver Public Library, 7-8:30, Central Branch, Vancouver Public Library, 350 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, B.C.

“Honey, Hives, and Poetry in the City”: inspired by our City’s poet laureate, Rachel Rose, who will inaugurate our event with her poetry, this event will celebrate and investigate food and poetry as a means of cultural/social activism and community building.

The event will partner with Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, as well as Hives for Humanity, and Thursdays Writing Collective from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, to celebrate and investigate food and poetry as a means of cultural and social activism and community building. The event will feature a collaborative reading by award winning scientist and author, Dr. Mark L. Winston, reading from his latest book, Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive, in conjunction with poet, Renee Sarojini Saklikar. We will also feature readings from author and poet Elee Kraljii Gardiner and two members of Thursdays Writing Collective.

There will be time for public response and activities as well as a brief presentation from Hives for Humanity  ( http://hivesforhumanity.com/)  who will present  a display about bee-keeping in the city, and offer a honey tasting. Our event will be free and open to the public, and will take place at Vancouver’s main library, downtown Vancouver.

We need two authors from Thursdays who either have a text they wrote about food honey or bees OR are willing to read a poem from Nick Flynn from his poetry book Blind Huber, about social justice and beekeeping.

Contact Elee to put your name in as a potential reader. This is a paid gig. We may offer writers who DO NOT have a text becoming a song with the composers first dibs.

April 28, 2015

Thursdays Writing Collective is participating in Verses Literary Festival. Ten writers will share their poems at Havana Gallery at 8pm. More details to come!

If you want to be one of these ten authors and you can give a rock solid commitment to appearing and reading a piece from our sessions since September about music and/or transformation, send Elee a short 2-3 sentence bio.

A bio example:

Elee Kraljii Gardiner is a poet from Boston who has contributed to Megaphone. She has been a member of Thursdays Writing Collective for eight years and is interested in social justice.

Bios should begin with YOUR NAME and say something short about your writing practice. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just no silly jokes, please! You can include groups you are part of, your likes or hobbies, your job, anything about your identity you think is important to share…

If you have questions, ask Elee or Molly.

We may offer writers who DO NOT have a poem becoming a song first dibs.

June 11, 2015

LAST CLASS

June 18, 2015

Potential Voice to Voice Book launch. Location and time to be decided. Volunteers will be needed!

Volunteer hours with Thursdays Writing Collective may count as Carnegie Community Centre hours redeemable for meal tickets. Ask Elee or Molly.

 

~~~

December 11, 2014

This was our last class of 2014. We return on Feb 12 to our regular sessions at Carnegie from 2-4pm.

Right now the composers are busy reading 60 submissions to the Voice to Voice project, listing their three picks of texts they would like to set to music. Each submission has a spark, an edge and a connection to the community. In our last class we heard a sample from each submitter and spoke with Gene and Lucas about what their methods for choosing might be. We spoke about how the composers might choose texts – and the world of factors that come into play, some practical, some ethereal.

What is clear is that each text is an accomplishment. Each submission will appear in our 7th book, Voice to Voice, to be published this spring, with others that are created in the New Year. The poems, songs, stories and slices of life that are set to song by the composers are not “better” than the ones that are not selected. The ability to only bring 12 arts ones to life means the composers have to make decisions based on voice, experience, intuition, challenge, etc.

In order to assure that everyone had a part in the text-to-song action the writers collaborated on a text where we each added one sentence to a page. That was edited down to one poem. Everyone who took part is credited as an author. We have asked the composers to make sure someone sets it.

In the meantime: for those who want to keep writing and talking about literature over the long winter break, Gilles Cyrenne will be writing on Thursdays (not Christmas Day) from 2-4pm on the third floor of Carnegie. Please bring your own paper and pen and perhaps a prompt to share!

December 4, 2014

Baby, it’s cold outside.

First prompt: the wolf and the mouse

Classic archetypes, the stuff of fables: do anything with the idea or the characters you like.

Next we read out the lyrics to the old winter holiday chestnut, Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Joan Morelli and James Witwicki alternated lines and it was practically impossible for them to read it without singing. Try it. Impossible!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

I really can’t stay
(But baby it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go away
(But baby it’s cold outside)
This evening has been
(Been hoping that you’d drop in)
So very nice
(I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice)
My mother will start to worry
(Beautiful what’s your hurry)
And Father will be pacing the floor
(Listen to the fireplace roar)
So really I’d better scurry
(Beautiful please don’t hurry)
Well maybe just a half a drink more
(Put some records on while I pour)
The neighbours might think
(But baby it’s bad out there)
Say what’s in this drink?
(No cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how
(Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break the spell
(I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)
I ought to say no no no sir
(Mind if I move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried
(What’s the sense of hurting my pride?)
I really can’t stay
(Oh baby don’t hold out)
AH BUT ITS COLD OUTSIDE!
I simply must go’
(But baby it’s cold outside)
The answer is no’
(But baby it’s cold outside)
The welcome has been
(How lucky that you dropped in)
So nice and warm
(Look out that window at that storm!)
My sister will be suspicious
(God your lips look delicious!)
My brother will be there at the door
(Waves upon a tropical shore)
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious
(God your lips are delicious )
Well maybe just a cigarette more
(Never such a blizzard before)
I got to get home
(But baby you’d freeze out there)
Say lend me a comb
(It’s up to your knees out there)
You’ve really been grand
(I thrill when you touch my hand)
But don’t you see?
(How can you do this thing to me?)
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow
(Think of my life-long sorrow)
At least there will be plenty implied
(If you caught pneumonia and died)
I really can’t stay
(Get over that old out)
AH BUT ITS COLD OUTSIDE!
(Where you could be going when the wind is blowing and it’s cold outside?)
BABY ITS COLD, COLD OUTSIDE!

We talked about the conflict in the song and many interpretations. We read a pretty good Wikipedia entry on it.

Here is some of the entry:

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a song with words and music by Frank Loesser.[1] Loesser wrote the duet in 1944 and premiered the song with his wife, Lynn Garland, at their Navarro Hotel housewarming party, and performed it toward the end of the evening, signifying to guests that it was nearly time to end the party. Garland considered it “their song” and was furious when Loesser sold the song to MGM.[2]

The lyrics in this duet are designed to be heard as a conversation between two people, marked as “mouse” and “wolf” on the printed score; they have returned to the “wolf’s” home after a date, and the “mouse” decides it is time to go home, but the “wolf” flirtatiously invites her to stay as it is late and “it’s cold outside”. The “mouse” wants to stay and enjoy herself, but feels she has to return home as her family will be wondering where she is.[3] Every line in the song features a statement from the “mouse” followed by a response from the “wolf”. Usually the “wolf” part is sung by a male and the “mouse” by a female.

Criticisms of the song stem from a reading of the wolf/mouse dynamic as sexually predatory. While some readers interpret the “mouse” as wanting to stay and putting up only token protests for the sake of appearance, supported by lyrics such as “The neighbors might think…”, “My father will be pacing the floor”,[4] other readers perceive the “mouse” as genuinely wanting to leave but being stopped by the “wolf” being coercive in his pleading. Examples of questionable lyrics in this regard include, “I simply must go”, “The answer is no”, “I’ve got to go home”.[5] There is also the line “Hey, what’s in this drink”, which to some implies alcohol is a determining factor in the mouse’s judgement, and to others sounds suspiciously like the “mouse” has been drugged.[6][7] Many movies, at the time the song was written, used a similar line to refer to someone behaving in a different manner than they expected and blaming it on the alcohol.[4]

The song is heard on stations around Christmas time. It is a popular duet as the lyrics as conversation with interjections by the “wolf” cause some interaction between the vocalists.[6]

In 1948, after years of informally performing the song at various parties, Loesser sold its rights to MGM, which inserted the song into its 1949 motion picture,Neptune’s Daughter.[2] The film featured two performances of the song: one by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams and the other by Red Skelton and Betty Garrett, the second of which has the roles of wolf and mouse reversed. These performances earned Loesser an Academy Award for Best Original Song.[1]

After this discussion we tackled this writing prompt: write a version of your own wolf/mouse or “answer back” song. Think about it as a song rather than a poem or story. Think about voices and conversation. Feel free to write a “wolf/wolf” or “mouse/mouse” song – what matters most is that you have TWO voices rather than one.

Check out what Laura Barron wrote – an anti consumerist xmas jingle.

But back to the song. For your viewing pleasure, some of the millions of versions of this song. They vary greatly in tone and complicity and attitudes towards sexual aggression. Some are really unsettling.


November 27, 2014

Laura Barron and Molly Skye Ancel facilitated class while Elee was away. Here is Laura’s recap:

Since September, it has been my honor, as the director of Instruments of Change and as a writer, myself, to partner with Elee Kraljii Gardiner and Thursdays Writing Collective on our Voice to Voice project. On Nov 27 I had the privilege to facilitate some writing prompts with the collective when Elee was out of town.  So, because my primary artistic medium is music, having made my living as a classical flutist, I decided to focus our session on the “music of language.”

This began with the prompt, “I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of beauty.” by Edgar Allan Poe, from The Poetic Principle, which lead to a lively discussion about the subjectivity of beauty, and some entertaining and provocative writing pieces related to the rhythm of words.

Next, we read Poe’s very musical poem, The Bells (below). Interestingly, most members of the collective found that it employed perhaps a nauseating quantity of onomatopoeia, alliteration, and sing-songy rhyming, metered verse, and called the work high-pitched and even a bit annoying. But such is the subjectivity of artistic taste as well.

The Bells

by Edgar Allan Poe

  1. Hear the sledges with the bells—
    Silver bells!
    What a world of merriment their melody foretells!

How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, In the icy air of night! While the stars that oversprinkle All the heavens, seem to twinkle With a crystalline delight; Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,

To the tintinabulation that so musically wells From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

 

 

  1. Hear the mellow wedding bells,
    Golden bells!
    What a world of happiness their harmony foretells? Through the balmy air of night
    How they ring out their delight!
    From the molten-golden notes,
    And all in tune,

What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,

What a gush of euphony voluminously wells! How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

 

In my rich but limited experience with the collective, I have been utterly amazed by the quality of extemporaneous writing that these authors have been able to compose within very limited time periods (usually about 15-minute at each session). And certainly some of these writers, even within these limits, have gravitated towards rhyme or meter in their work. However, a good number of them have seemed to favor free verse. And for our Voice to Voice project, in the context of creating words that will be transformed into song, we have acknowledged that since art song composers are fully willing and able to set free, and/or rhyming metered verse, “anything goes”.  However, Elee and I also thought that it would be at least an interesting exercise to invite more play around the musical elements of speech. So, in this spirit, our group spent some time building a rhyming word bank (a technique used by many prolific rappers) around a theme of their choice. One writer pointed out that while so many songs and poems have been written about love, this term has very few rhyming words. So, we built our bank around words that were either related-to, or synonyms-of “love” and a hearty list ensued (IE. Cupid-stupid; Aphrodite- mighty; & heart-part just to name a few). From this exercise, emerged poems about criss-crossed lovers’, misunderstood definitions of love, nonsense poetry, an aggregate poem that included nearly all of the words on our vast list, and even a rhyming German Gibberish poem.

 

Then, we finished with a final prompt:  “Dissonant music is … the music of true and spiritual Democracy; the music of universal brotherhoods; music of Free Souls, not of (…individual) personalities, by composer/astrologer, Dane Rudhyar (1895-1985). And we invited writers to think about how issues of dissonance might be mirrored in their own lives or relationships. This resulted in some incredible and very current and topical works ranging from political rants about Harper, to a first person “memoir” of an eventually incarcerated Jian Gomeshi.

Thanks, Laura, for this excellent fill-in!

November 20, 2014

A pouring rainy day and we walked over to St James Church to hear Rena Sharon and Bahareh Poureslami demonstrate some art song. The church was warm and faintly scented with incense. We gathered our thoughts on paper for a few minutes as we waited for everyone to arrive and get settled.

After a warm welcome Rena spoke briefly about art song – how it is called simply known as “canción” (song) in Spanish, and “melody” (melody) in French. How the emotional impact of the music can link the poem to the emotions, how her love of the form is for its ability to connect – not only genres but people.

Bahareh’s voice was pure and clear and strong and filled every crevice of the massive space. Many of us spoke about the reverberations and resonances we felt in our body. She spoke of the great physicality of singing and invited Erol, Roger and Jan up to stand next to her, breath deeply and let their voices hit the rafters. Then we all stood together and launched our voices skyward. It was incredible.

Here is a little clip of Bahareh singing “Broken and Tired” by Matthew Emery – poetry by Archibald Lampman.

Here are the words to the four art song pieces they performed. Please do not use these for anything else than reference. We post them here for members of the writing group, not for public use.

INVOCATION

Poem by Michelle LeBaron

Music by Matthew Emery

 

To all that is unmined in me

bring ripeness

To all that stirs deep within

longing for light

To all that is rough

a sculptor’s hand

To all that hurts

balm

To that which strives

breath

To fear

arrival

To sadness

simple pleasure

To longing

the shore.

 

 

Refuge

Poet: Archibald Lampman (1861-1899)

Music: Matthew Emery

 O endless sun-steeped plains

with forests in dim blue shrouds

And little whisps of rain

Falling from far-off clouds

 

I come from the choking air

Of passion, doubt, and strife,

With a spirit and mind laid bare

To your healing breadth of Life:

 

O fruitful and sacred ground,

O sunlight and summer sky

Absorb me, and fold me round,

For broken and tired am I.

 

Sure on this Shining Night

Poet: James Agee

Music: Samuel Barber

Sure on this shining night

Of star-made shadows round

Kindness must watch for me

This side the ground.

 

The late year lies down the north

All is healed, all is health

High summer holds the earth

Hearts all whole.

 

Sure on this shining night

I weep for wonder

Wandering far alone

Of shadows on the stars.

 

Love’s Philosophy

Poet: Percy B. Shelley

Music: Roger Quilter

The fountains mingle with the river

And the rivers with the ocean,

The winds of heaven mix for ever

With a sweet emotion;

Nothing in the world is single;

All things by a law divine

In one spirit meet and mingle.

Why not I with thine?—

 

See the mountains kiss high heaven

And the waves clasp one another;

No sister-flower would be forgiven

If it disdained its brother;

And the sunlight clasps the earth

And the moonbeams kiss the sea:

What is all this sweet work worth

If thou kiss not me?

 

 

 

 

November 13, 2014

We had about 22 people and tons of announcements, which we shared in good news/bad news form. One of the bad news items is that our friend Ruth Dato was hit by a car last week in her wheelchair and has had surgery. She is recovering and we wish her a full health. The good news part is that she has been handselling copies of The Stanza Project to the nurses! In celebration of Ruth’s courage, we asked her for a writing prompt that she could do in her hospital bed at the same time as we did it in the classroom downtown. She suggested, “the process of healing,” which dovetails beautifully with our Voice to Voice theme of transformation. Several writers gave me their pieces to share with Ruth.

The first prompt on the board was: the relationship is changing

The second exercise was collaborative. Each person took a piece of paper and wrote the same line on the top: “The devil doesn’t have any music.” It’s a quote from singer Mavis Staples.

Each person wrote a next line/sentence and then passed the paper to their left. They received a new page from the person on their left. They had to read what was written by the previous person and add a sentence. The trick was to pay close attention to continuing the new piece. And then pass it along to the next person. Each piece had to be treated as a new story. The first few sentences were easy to write but as the story accrued more lines and directions from previous authors, it took more thought to figure out what to write. And more time to read what was already on the page! photoThere was synchronicity and contagion but we tried to consider the needs and directions of each individual text as we contributed a line to it. Each paper circled the table once until we each got a paper with our first sentence at the top. Elee will be editing some of these pieces and assembling one to submit to the composers so that everyone will have a hand in a text that becomes song.

 

A few reminders:

On Nov 15 Saturday we hold a collaboration workshop at Carnegie Community Centre in our classroom from 11am-1pm. It will be led by Rup Sidhu. Some of the composers already participated in this workshop last week and it is an excellent mind opener about who to communicate fruitfully with other people.

Next week on Nov 2o we hold class at St James Church at 303 Cordova at Gore. We will hear Rena Sharon playing piano and Bahareh Poureslami singing a variety of art songs. This demo and conversation will be really helpful in figuring out how our texts may transform. Please meet at St James at 2pm and bring your paper and pen so we can do a quick writing exercise before Rena and Bahareh arrive at 2:30.

Laura Barron will be leading class on Nov 27. Elee will be away!

 

November 5, 2014

First prompt, somewhat cryptic: badum-tish

See if you can write to it without clicking the link until the you are done writing.

Writing Prompt: We read this onomatopeia handout. Everyone got a different page of this list of words that double as the sounds they describe. We read some of them aloud – some of the words were sung out or buzzed instead of spoken. It was very performative and fun. Then we each picked one to write about. We used it as a wacky word, as an example, as a sound in a story or any way we liked.

Writing Prompt: A listening exercise. Close your eyes and listen for a minute to the sounds in the room (or your body) and outside. After a minute or two, pick up your pen and write a list of the sounds you heard. Just a list.

Writing Prompt: Listening and writing exercise. (I did this with angela rawlings online in Iceland while I was in Vancouver. Angela is a sound poet and a wonderful workshop leader.) You can try this with a friend or perhaps on your own in a café or crowded place by noticing intrusive noises. Begin free writing on any topic you like. I will begin making sounds as you write. Feel free to incorporate them into your writing in any way you like. Do they change your writing or mood? Do they prompt you or jar you? Just an experiment, no way to do them wrong.

October 30, 2014

Our first prompt on the board: “scary song”.

We produced some gothic horror stories, a love song (Halloween style), and even a cautionary tale about “singing to the police.”

For some, the scariest song is karaoke, or singing to an audience. We discussed why singing in public or reading your writing in public is scary. Our next exercise was to write about a time you tried either, and experienced fear (sweaty palms, broken concentration, pit in the stomach – aka the terror response) or perhaps a moment when you felt NO fear. Consensus at the end of our sharing from the prompt was that practice abolishes fear. We’ll see.

Then we talked about lullabies and how mothers left on their own with squalling infants could sing or work out their problems. Yes, there is a lot of danger and catastophizing in some lullabies. Sometimes the cradle WILL fall.

Next we discussed the idea of  “the Lullobologist,” a person who studies lullabies. There is, in fact, a REAL lullabologist, Julia Soto Lebentritt. Here is her website. She has compiled an archive of lullabies around New York from various cultures and language traditions.

On her site are two short documentary segments narrated by Odetta, the incredible folk singer. Here’s a clip of her singing “This Little Light of Mine” that begins with a spoken recitation of the words of Marianne Williamson.

Here is part one of “Singing the City to Sleep”:

And here is part two:

October 23, 2014

Our first prompt: “the soundtrack”

As well as suggesting a list of sounds for daily life, this prompt spurred more than one reference to 8 track tapes.

an 8track in the car radio

We decided to invite anyone interested to write a poem or piece about 8tracks with an idea of arranging the pieces together in a sort of “suite.” So far we have four pieces promised – this could be an interesting piece, especially if it is selected to become an art song collaboration.

Our next prompt was to write a list of songs and/or lyrics from years ago that stand out in memory. From childhood to now. Any genre. Any fragment of music. From the radio or even a lullabye. Just a list. Titles or words. We didn’t share these lists but turned right back to writing.

Our third exercise was to choose one of the songs from the previous list we had just written that is fixed to a memory in life. Our task was to write “around” the song: about the moment we heard it, where we were, the smells, the surroundings. As always, one can do this exercise from a character’s point of view if not one’s own.

This was tremendously fruitful and evocative. Not only did we share references to Latcho Drom, Bob Dylan, Soundgarden and ABBA, but Jan Tse sang a snippet of the opera Carmen in Mandarin. She referred us to this excellent clip of Grace Chang from 1961:

Joan Morelli, another writer with a beautiful voice,  countered with an ad hoc rendition of the same piece of Carmen from the 1954 movie Carmen Jones, an adaptation starring Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte:

From here we returned to writing, thinking about how malleable words and ideas can be. We looked at Frank O’Hara, the New York poet who loved the city, walked the streets, listened to the labourers and cribbed notes from the block.

A good bio and more poems are available here.  (This is brief context is excerpted from Poetryfoundation.org)

“Frank O’Hara was a dynamic leader of the “New York School” of poets, a group that included John Ashbery,Barbara GuestKenneth Koch, and James Schuyler. The Abstract Expressionist painters in New York City during the 1950s and 1960s used the title, but the poets borrowed it. From the beginning O’Hara’s poetry was engaged with the worlds of music, dance, and painting. In that complex of associations he devised an idea of poetic form that allowed the inclusion of many kinds of events, including everyday conversations and notes about New York advertising signs.”

Interesting that these sources -including the Carmens that popped up – are all from the same era. Can’t plan that sort of thing!

I recommend looking at the lineation of O’Hara’s poems here on his website.

SONG

(1951)

 

I’m going to New York!

(what a lark! what a song!)

where the tough Rocky’s eaves

hit the sea. Where th’Acro-

polis is functional, the trains

that run and shout! the books

that have trousers and sleeves!

 

I’m going to New York!

(quel voyage! jamais plus!)

far from Ypsilanti and Flint!

where Goodman rules the Empire

and the sunlight’s eschato-

logy upon the wizard’s bridges

and the galleries of print!

 

I’m going to New York!

(to my friends! mes semblables!)

I suppose I’ll walk back West.

But for now I’m gone forever!

the city’s hung with flashlights!

the Ferry’s unbuttoning its vest!

 

MUSIC    (1954)

 

If I rest for a moment near The Equestrian

pausing for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower Shoppe,

that angel seems to be leading the horse into Bergdorf’s

and I am naked as a table cloth, my nerves humming.

Close to the fear of war and the stars which have disappeared.

I have in my hands only 35¢, it’s so meaningless to eat!

and gusts of water spray over the basins of leaves

like the hammers of a glass pianoforte. If I seem to you

to have lavender lips under the leaves of the world,

I must tighten my belt.

It’s like a locomotive on the march, the season

of distress and clarity

and my door is open to the evenings of midwinter’s

lightly falling snow over the newspapers.

Clasp me in your handkerchief like a tear, trumpet

of early afternoon! in the foggy autumn.

As they’re putting, up the Christmas trees on Park Avenue

I shall see my daydreams walking by with dogs in blankets,

put to some use before all those coloured lights come on!

But no more fountains and no more rain,

and the stores stay open terribly late.

We read these poems several times around the table, studying the language and rhythm of the verses and looking at the balance of class/power, hope/despair, energy/resignation. If we had had time we would have attempted to write our own version of a song based on our daily walk around the block.

October 16th, 2014

Molly, who facilitated class while Elee was away, sent this report:

We looked at the theme of transformation. Our beginning prompt was “I hardly recognize.” Many different responses grew out of this prompt, some prose, some poetry, and many in between. Our next activity explored a Merriam-Webster definition of “transformation.” There were 4 different definitions for this word – we tackled the definitions by reading them out loud, and much confusion ensued. Luckily, out of this confusion grew people’s amazing responses to the idea of transformation. Some themes that came up in particular were spatial, cultural, and personal transformation, as well as the passage of time.

In our last activity we started to create lists that addressed things transforming from one thing to another, A to Z, kitten to cat, etc. Some of us responded by associating words, whereas others wrote full-fledged poems from this idea. Some possibilities for a collaborative piece for Voice to Voice grew out of this last list-making activity.

October 9, 2014

We started by dispersing four boxes of brand new books and literary journals, some of them donated by Poetry is Dead editor Daniel Zomparelli. Thanks! We welcomed two new members and a new composer, too.

The prompt on the board we all began with:

“With the right music you either forget everything or remember everything “ – Anonymous

After sharing the excellent responses to that we talked about last class. We reiterated the goal of providing a safe place for people to write and share their responses, with a supportive reaction afterwards – meaning not necessarily rushing to the next speaker. We also reaffirmed our desire to meet on the page as writers who can explore the dark and the light of art: last week’s Mahler/Ruckert hit some of us pretty hard, but we decided to continue writing what needs to be written. And while there is no “wrong way” to react to the prompts – they can be bent or subverted in any way to serve the author’s goals in terms of genre, structure, and theme – there is no place for hate speech or any writing that marginalizes others. Happy to say this has never been a problem, but it is important to confirm once and a while.  We’re not a self-help group or therapy encounter but we don’t shy away from the tough topics. We do respect the risks some writers take.

From there we attempted to listen to some other examples of art song but the poor acoustics made this impossible and everyone voted to continue writing. What we would have listened to came from Laura Barron:

Comical and somewhat jazzy: Jake Heggie Of Gods and Cats 

Mash-up of classical text, contemporary composer and pop singer: Philip Glass Plactus (ancient Latin text sung by Nathalie Merchant)

Playful, Celtic-influenced piece: McIntyre Limerick of Limericks:

These are just a few examples of the diversity of the tone and lightness possible with artsong. What do you think about them?

We returned to a definition of the genre:

Q. OK, then what’s an “art song”?
A. Like most categorizations in classical music (even the term “classical music” is problematic), this is a very difficult definition to make due not only to the blurring of lines that many contemporary compositions create, but also due to the overlap of popular music, pop classics, broadway musicals, and folk music. This definition is intended only as a rough guide to the genre.

 An art song is a relatively short piece of music written by a person commonly referred to as a “composer” and set to a poetic text for a classically-trained vocalist with some form of accompaniment (usually but not restricted to the pianoforte). During a performance, which is usually in a recital hall these days, even if the piece was originally intended for the salon, the audience sits quietly without smoking, eating or drinking (unless very stealthily). The singer is rarely also the composer of the song. The lighting rarely changes during a performance, and no special set, scenery, or costume (besides typical recitalwear) is required.

Note: After reading the above description Rena Sharon sent me this excellent comment:

At VISI’s Songfire Project we move outside the usual protocols of Art Song recital presentation. We often use costumes, staging, sets, scenery, lighting, and even narrative scripts. We use text projection (sometimes with imagery), allowing people to read and understand the words while they’re watching and listening to the performers. We invite the writers to discuss possibilities with the composers and performers (which will partially governed by funding and venue facilities).  

Great thing to keep in mind!

This opened a discussion about the accessibility of artsong. We spoke about how strange it can sound, how rarified or even unintelligible and what it might feel like for us to hand over our texts to composers who then labour, sweat and delight over their creation, which is something we could consider ugly, sublime or who knows what. We talked about the composers in turn handing their “baby” to performers to begin their process of creating with their blood, sweat and joy. We spoke about this as  a process of curious discovery. We ended by agreeing we want to stay open-minded and investigate the process as artists. “Like Christmas!” someone offered.

Reminding ourselves that, “writing about music is, as Martin Mull put it, like dancing about architecture,”  we returned to writing, gathering our thoughts around how connective/contagious creativity can be. We also mentioned how framing one’s intention for a piece of writing can be helpful (do I want to make this text to feel sad/hopeful…?)

Our prompt was a Quaker saying: what thee said spoke to my condition.

A few reminders:

Our deadline to hand texts to composers is our last class of the year, December 11, 2014. Please keep revising and editing your work and get it to Elee, Molly or Anne by hand or email.

Neil is happy to help people send off submissions. He has had tremendous success with smaller journals and poetry magazines in the US. See Neil in class or contact him at dnsimmers AT yahoo.ca

We are invited to read at Heart of the City on Nov 2, Sunday at the Interurban Gallery. We will be reading with the excellent community engaged poet Mariner Janes in reference to DTES poet Bud Osborn. Mariner will speak about Bud’s life for 5-10 minutes and then we will have 5 Thursdays writers read a poem of Bud’s and then 5 Thursdays writers read a poem of their own or someone’s from the Collective. If you are interested in reading, please contact Elee. The Carnegie library is putting aside copies of Bud’s books so we can access them and pick some poems.

Here’s Mariner’s bioPoet Mariner Janes situates Bud Osborn’s life and poetry in the Downtown Eastside, to be followed by readings from Thursdays Writing Collective of new and published works from the neighbourhood Bud called home. Poet, writer, editor and East Vancouver resident, Mariner Janes works in the DTES and aims to bring the multitude of voices he finds here into his work, through found poetry, transcription and storytelling.

And lastly, Molly is teaching next week because Elee is away.

October 2, 2014

The writing prompt on the board was: “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” – from Gather Together in My Name by Maya Angelou, 1928-2014 (American novelist/poet)

As usual, there is no wrong way to interact with this quote. It can become the seed for a response in any genre on any theme. We spent about 15 minutes writing to it and then shared our responses.

After this Laura Barron led the class through a musical prompt. We listened to a 6 minute section of music played on speakers. She didn’t tell us anything about the piece or the composer. All we knew was that the words were in German. Among us we speak Turkish, Arabic, Mandarin, French, Spanish, Italian, Cypriot and other languages, but luckily no German! We closed our eyes and sat in a sort of meditation to listen to this:
Then we listened to it a second time and wrote what we thought the music was telling us, or what sort of narrative we imagined for it. We heard from the group – many pieces about loneliness, despair tinged with hope, three pieces about the death of children. It was an emotionally bare exchange and a testimony to the participants that they were able to share so beautifully.

Only after we read our narratives did Laura contextualize the lieder, or song. It is a recording of Gustav Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder #1. The original Kindertotenlieder were a group of 428 poems written by Rückert in 1833–34[2] in reaction to the illness (scarlet fever) and death of two of his children. Mahler selected five of Rückert’s poems to set as Lieder, which he composed between 1901 and 1904. How did so many of us pick up on this?

The work is scored for a vocal soloist (the notes lie comfortably for a baritone or mezzo-soprano) and an orchestra consisting of piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, cor anglais (English horn), 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, timpani, glockenspiel, tam-tam, celesta, harp, and strings.

Song Translation:

Now the sun wants to rise as brightly

Now the sun wants to rise as brightly

as if nothing terrible had happened during the night.

The misfortune had happened only to me,

but the sun shines equally on everyone.

You must not enfold the night in you.

You must sink it in eternal light.

A little star went out in my tent!

Greetings to the joyful light of the world

We discussed the points of hope and the concept of transformation involved in this deep grief.

In a strange synchronicity, the novel Laura happened to be reading, Orfeo by Richard Powers, (2014), touches on this exact series of poems. She gave us an excerpt of the book that dealt with this poem.

Laura also mentioned she will be holding a workshop on collaboration and nonviolent communication for our composer friends and for us so we can get the most from this exchange. Dates will be announced.

We encourage everyone to continue to revise their work – we will be handing our texts to the composers in our last class in December. We won’t be able to work with every text (we have a limited number of composers!) so we are looking forward to creating a collaborative text with a line from everyone in the room so each person is represented in this project. We’ll work on that next week!

 

September 25, 2014

We welcomed four of our six + collaborating composers. Our room was stuffed with 30 people!

Our first prompt was:

in·ter·val

: a period of time between events

music : the difference in pitch between two notes

 

Next we wrote to this beautiful line that Laura Barron brought in:

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” ― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791 (Viennese composer)

 

Then we used blank sheet music as a prompt. We considered inhabiting the space, with these instructions:

turn it, fold it, subvert it

turn it, fold it, subvert it

Throw out any musical knowledge you have. Think about the physical representation on the page: what does it look like to you? A couple of some sort? Two oxen yoked to a harness? Consider the pairing of the staphs without thinking of music notation.

Maybe you need to turn the paper upside down or sideways. Or turn it over.

Write a paragraph on the page that explores the format of the paper.

 

 

 

 

We also wrote and spoke about these interesting lines:

I want to hear the music between the period and the capital letter of the next line.-Tom Cone, Vancouver librettist.

By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. – Franz Kafka, Czech author.

 

September 18, 2014

Welcome back!

We were swamped! We needed 5 extra chairs from the learning centre to accommodate everyone – lots of familiar faces and several new ones.

We introduced the Voice to Voice project and reported about our fundraising success.

Because we went over the upcoming project we spent a fair bit of time talking instead of writing.

Our initial prompt was: tell us what you feel (know) about music

We wanted to get a sense of people’s experiences around music and we heard some interesting reactions to the crossover bewteen feeling and knowing.

We finished the session by writing some of the 13 personal thank you haikus and limericks for our funders. We also chose which participants will deliver personal poetry readings to the donors who selected that as their perk. We had lots of volunteers so we chose names out of a hat. Two James and one Roger will record a poem or prose piece from our published books and read them into a mp3 file we email to the donors.

Antonette is coordinating our table at WORD fest on Sunday, September 28th at the Main Vancouver Public Library. We have a table thanks to the generous support of Simon Fraser University’s Writing and Publishing Program. To volunteer to staff the table for an hour please contact Antonette at <antonetterea@gmail.com>. It tends to be windy and cold so please dress warmly. We will make sure to bring some snacks for our volunteers because nearby food choices are expensive.

 

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