Thursday, September 11, 2008

"The Sydney Highrise Variations" lyric sheet



The next poem we are scoring is "The Sydney Highrise Variations" by the great Australian poet Les Murray.

Since it is mostly scored (though the score is not yet recorded), I will present the track list and then the poem chopped up into songs. The bolded titles in quotation marks are the titles I gave the songs - though all drawn from the poem, they don't reappear in the poem as titles as they do on this "lyric sheet" presentation.

The score is more or less a Three Fried Men band record, with something of the flavor of English Settlement by XTC.

*
THE SYDNEY HIGHRISE VARIATIONS

1. “Far above the tidal turnaround”
2. “Transients at speed”
3. “Inked in by scaffolding and workers”
4. “On its vaulting drum”
5. “Also, it’s a space probe”
6. “They docked at apogee”
7. “The new city standing on its haze”
8. “Repeat their lines repeat their lines”
9. “The peajacket era”
10. “A mulch of faded flags”
11. “Vanished from the central upsurge”
12. “Hot-air money driers”
13. “In the land of veneers”
14. “The starving spirit is fed upon the heart”
15. “Employment and neckties and ruling themes”
16. "In ambiguous battle at length"
17. “Enormous”
18. “The C19-20”
19. “Recalcitrant and archaic spirits”
20. “In the age of piety”
21. “We must fly in potent circles”
22. “Breath of catching up”
23. “Might end, and mutate, and persist”
24. “Skill and the shadow”
25. “To be solar, I must be nuclear”
26. “Six hundred glittering and genteel towns”
27. “Modernity's strange anger”

*

THE SYDNEY HIGHRISE VARIATIONS
by Les Murray

1. Fuel Stoppage on Gladesville Road Bridge
in the Year 1980


1. “Far above the tidal turnaround”

So we're sitting over our sick beloved engine
atop a great building of the double century
on the summit that exhilarates cars, the concrete vault on its thousands
of tonnes of height, far above the tidal turnaround.

*

2. “Transients at speed”

Gigantic pure form, all exterior, superbly uninhabited
or peopled only by transients at speed, the bridge
is massive outline.

*

3. “Inked in by scaffolding and workers”

It was inked in by scaffolding and workers.
Seen from itself, the arch
is an abstract hill, a roadway up-and-over without country,
from below, a ponderous grotto, all entrance and vast shade
framing blues and levels.

*

4. “On its vaulting drum”

From a distance, the flyover on its vaulting drum
is a sketched stupendous ground-burst, a bubble raising surface
or a rising heatless sun with inset horizons.

*

5. “Also, it’s a space probe”

Also, it's a space-probe,
a trajectory of strange fixed dusts, that were milled,
boxed with steel rod mesh and fired, in stages,
from sandstone point to point.

*

6. “They docked at apogee”

They docked at apogee.
It feels good. It feels right.
The joy of sitting high is in our judgement.
The marvellous brute-force effects of our century work.
They answer something in us. Anything in us.

2. View of Sydney, Australia, from
Gladesville Road Bridge

*

7. “The new city standing on its haze”

There's that other great arch eastward, with its hanging highways;
the headlands and horizons of packed suburb, white among
bisque-fired, odd smokes rising;
there's Warrang, the flooded valley, that is now the ship-chained Harbour,
recurrent everywhere, with its azure and its grains;
ramped parks, bricked containers,
verandahs successive around walls,
and there's the central highrise, multi-storey, the twenty-year countdown,
the new city standing on its haze above the city.

*

8. “Repeat their lines repeat their lines”

Ingots of sheer
affluence poles
bomb-drawing grid
of columnar profit
tunnels in the sky
high window printouts
repeat their lines
repeat their lines
credit conductors
repeat their lines
bar graphs on blue
glass tubes of boom
in concrete wicker
each trade Polaris
government Agena
fine print insurrected
tall things on a tray

*

9. “The peajacket era”

All around them is the old order: brewery brick terrace hospital
horrible workplace; the scale of the tramway era,
the peajacket era, the age of the cliff-repeating woolstores.
South and west lie the treeless suburbs, a mulch of faded flags,
north and partly east, the built-in paradise forest.
*

10. "A Mulch of Faded Flags"

A mulch of faded flags

3. The Flight from Manhattan

*

11. “Vanished from the central upsurge”

It is possible the heights of this view are a museum:
though the highrise continues desultorily along some ridges,
canned Housing, Strata Title,
see-through Office Space,
upright bedsteads of Harbour View,
residential soviets,
the cranes have all but vanished from the central upsurge.

*

12. “Hot-air money driers”

Hot-air money-driers,
towering double entry,
Freud's cobwebbed poem
with revolving restaurant,
they took eighty years to fly here from Manhattan
these variant towers. By then, they were arriving everywhere.

*

13. “In the land of veneers”

In the land of veneers,
of cladding, of Cape Codding
(I shall have Cape Codded)
they put on heavy side.

The iron ball was loose in the old five-storey city

*

14. “The starving spirit is fed upon the heart”

clearing bombsites for them. They rose like nouveaux accents
and stilled, for a time, the city's conversation.

Their arrival paralleled
the rise of the Consumers
gazing through themselves
at iconoclasms, wines,
Danish Modern ethics.

Little we could love expanded to fill the spaces
of high glazed prosperity. An extensive city
that had long contained the dimensions of heaven and hell
couldn't manage total awe at the buildings of the Joneses.

Their reign coincided
with an updraft of Ideology,
that mood in which the starving
spirit is fed upon the heart.

*

15. “Employment and neckties and ruling themes”

Employment and neckties and ruling themes ascended
into the towers. But they never filled them.
Squinting at them through the salt
and much-washed glass of her history, the city kept her flavour
fire-ladder high, rarely above three storeys.

In ambiguous battle at length, she began to hedge
the grilles of Aspiration. To limit them to standing
on economic grounds. With their twists of sculpture.

On similar grounds we are stopped here, still surveying
the ridgy plain of houses.

*

16. "In Ambiguous Battle at Length"

(Instrumental)

4. The C19-20

*

17. "Enormous"


Enormous. England's buried gulag.
The stacked entrepot, great city of the Australians.

*

18. “The C19-20”

The Nineteenth Century. The Twentieth Century.
There were never any others. No centuries before these.
Dante was not hailed in his time as an Authentic
Fourteenth Century Voice. Nor did Cromwell thunder, After all,
in the bowels of Christ, this is the Seventeenth Century!

The two are one aircraft in the end, the C19-20,
capacious with cargo. Some of it can save your life,
some can prevent it.

*

19. “Recalcitrant and archaic spirits”

The cantilevered behemoth
is fitted up with hospitals and electric Gatling guns
to deal with recalcitrant and archaic spirits.

*

20. “In the age of piety”

It rose out of the Nineteenth, steam pouring from venturi
and every man turning hay with a wooden fork
in the Age of Piety (A.D. or B.C.) wants one
in his nation's airline. And his children dream of living
in a palace of packing crates beside the cargo terminal:
No one will see! Everything will be surprises!

*

21. “We must fly in potent circles”

Directly under the flightpath, and tuned to listening,
we hear the cockpit traffis, the black box channel
that can't be switched off: Darwinians and Lawrentians
are wrestling for the controls,
We must take her into Space! We must fly in potent circles!

5. The Recession of the Joneses

22. “Breath of catching up”

The worldwide breath of Catching Up
may serve to keep the mighty, slowing
machine aloft beyond our lifetime:
nearly all of the poor are blowing.

*

23. “Might end, and mutate, and persist”

The soaring double century
might end, and mutate, and persist;
as we've been speaking, the shadows of
bridges, cranes, towers have shifted east.

*

24. “Skill and the shadow”

When we create our own high style
skill and the shadow will not then part;
as rhetoric would conceal from art
effort has at best a winning margin.

*

25. “To be solar, I must be nuclear”

The sun, that is always catching up
with night and day and month and year,
blazes from its scrolled bare face: To be
solar, I must be nuclear --

*

26. “Six hundred glittering and genteel towns”

Six hundred glittering and genteel towns
gathered to be urban in plein air,
more complex in their levels than their heights
and vibrant with modernity's strange anger.

*

27. “Modernity's strange anger”

(Instrumental.)


***

Image of Gladesville Road Bridge from the University of Sydney Civil Engineering site.

2 comments:

Tony Renner said...

can i add some guitar?

-- tony

http://www.myspace.com/asnagarm

Confluence City said...

Hey Tony,
We are going to have some score opportunities in 2009, but this poem is pretty much scored.