“Bark” (tangential learning in poetic scores)
by Eliot Cardinaux
Note: My reference to “tangential learning” was influenced most deeply by a factor of my childhood, i.e. learning to adapt to my own very active, associative imagination (labeled Attention Deficit Disorder by my superiors from quite a young age). I thought it was interesting how a part of my process of [musical] composition came about through my need to understand the needs of a mind (my own) that works differently from others, and that by turning that mind inside out I would enable people to witness the beauty within.
In more purely artistic terms, I write imagistic poems, that is, more specifically, poems where the image acts as metaphor to the next (juxtaposed) image unfolding in time, creating a sense of motion or music between images, unfolding what I like to think of as an internal narrative, so that the poem is like a clock, that works, only not to tell time, a narrative poetry partly submerged in the thread of actions or events within the poem that tell the story of its speaker.
What if, I thought, each image, word or metaphor were allowed its own life within the context of a listening experience on the part of an audience? Each image, often, when one reads a poem, may create a tangential sphere of learning or experiencing for a listener, reader, or audience member. What if that tangential sphere were given more solidity, for a more visceral poetic reality to come to fruition not only in the mind of a single audience member, but in the shared experience of everyone involved in the witnessing of a performance of a poetic work? Hence, my idea for this experimental piece.
Each “circled” word is used, when spoken, to cue a small section of improvisational material, written for each member of the ensemble; and as the piece unfolds in time, each circled or “important” word (by this I mean “emphasized” in my mind, in the rhythmical, lyrical sense of the poem) presents its own tangent to the listener in thematic musical material, referencing both the internal life of the poem and its speaker/composer, as well as the internal space of the listener, whereby it is digested and understood. To me unveiling what is hidden, invisible, or internal among each individual component of an audience, or at least creating that collective illusion is a means by which we can commune on a deeper level with one another, in and among the presence of many. The words themselves contain their own, perhaps myriad identities, and yet there is common ground sought out in my process of bringing particular points of humor, depth and empathy to light within the poem, in the context of the piece of music contained in its form.
I will have a recording of this shortly. It was performed at a concert in December, 2015 in Pierce Hall at the New England Conservatory of Music, featuring a composition and improvisation ensemble led by violist/composer/educator Tanya Kalmanovitch. The ensemble featured Adam Tuch (melodica), Alec Whiting (mandolin), Ilona Tipp (voice, recitation), Wendy Eisenberg (guitar), Kinan Idnawi (oud), and Eliot Cardinax (myself), on piano/composition/poetry.