LYRICISM AS AN INSTRUMENT: AMERICAN POETRY MEETS EUROPEAN FREE IMPROVISATION — THE SPOKEN WORD ENCOUNTERS TACTILE MUSIC
Eliot Cardinaux: pianos, voice, poetry
Jonas Engel: alto saxophone, clarinet, modified pTrumpet
Etienne Nillesen: extended snare drum
Asger Thomsen: double bass, objects
Album will be released on January 3rd 2021 and available here:
Poet & theorist Cathy Park Hong, in her essay “Against Witness,” writes, in the context of the work of Doris Salcedo, that “installation art is an immersive somatic experience, engaging all our perceptual planes — the spatial, the aural — and not just the optical.” Poetry, if I may say, lies within the same realm to me, in that my poetry is installed, more often than not, as the one and only “formal” component, within the framework of a shared practice of improvisation, rather than existing solely on the page. The experience, I hope, is immersive in a similar sense.
The poetry on this recording is based in great part on the work of two poets, one of whose phrases scatter the titles of Doris Salcedo’s works, & whom Cathy Park Hong writes about, rightly, in the same essay.
The first, aforementioned, is Paul Celan, a poet who survived both his parents and the holocaust in which both of their lives were taken, who wrote in German; not only in the language his mother spoke to him as a child, but also in the language of her & his father’s killers.
The second is Osip Mandelstam, a Russian poet who lived & died under Stalin — whose work survived in great part — astonishingly, as the poems alone number roughly 400 — in he & his wife’s long-term memory, due to the fact that any written manuscript of the work was subject to confiscation by authorities, & therefore endangered both Mandelstam & his wife by its very presence.
There is a third poet, however, whose poems have left an indelible mark on this music: the Syrian poet Adonis, whose exile & virtual invention of modern Arabic poetry have still not been fully recognized throughout the Western world. His influence on my poetry is clear, mostly in our second set (“A Present History of Air”).
I recently brought the poems I’ve mentioned — which are collected alongside others under the title Around the Faded Sun (Bodily Press, 2020) — into the midst of this recorded improvisation, which you are reading about now — with a group of musicians I am lucky to be a part of, going by the name Our Hearts as Thieves.
Jonas, Asger, Etienne, & I met for a day of recording & a concert in January of 2020, shortly before the Coronavirus took hold. It was only the second time we had met as a full ensemble. The result was captured on recording by Stefan Deistler, & I was able to render & produce an album out of the raw material. I hope it brings out, in relative detail, a semblance of the energy of these 70+ minutes of music.
With the exception of the two shorter tracks, which were the only things kept out of several hours of music recorded privately during the day, this album was recorded live, uninterrupted, in two sets, in front of a small & attentive audience at Loft in Cologne.
Bringing any of my poetry into the midst of improvisation has always been, to me — & in this case, I personally feel, quite happily, if you can say that nowadays — a genuine, experimental risk. Any reward I have taken from the experience, as I always hope will be the case, is due to the skill & dedication of the musicians on the gig.