Saturday, February 21, 2009

Scoring Alice Fulton on Isle de St. Louis

Last week I reached out, again, to the poet Alice Fulton.

I first approached her some years ago with an interest in scoring her great poem "Give: A Sequence, Reimagining Daphne and Apollo". I got her address in Ithaca, New York (where she teaches at Cornell University) and sent her a CD of our score to Crossing America by Leo Connellan.

She responded appreciatively, and welcomed the collaboration. But the email exchange soon fell silent, as happens with busy people - one of whom is an Ivy League professor and world-famous poet.

But Alice Fulton and her great poem have been on my mind again, since my last trip to Paris, one year ago.

As I was recalling in a recent post, I sat one cold day drinking a hot chocolat at the Brasserie de Isle de St. Louis in the middle of the Seine, listening to my vast archive of post-progressive rock music from Southern California by Another Umbrella.

I was hooked up to sound via an inexpensive portable CD player I had just received from my Secret Santa at work. I paged through poems we intend to score as I listened to Another Umbrella, searching for connections.

One six-song sequence really caught my ear. It was recorded live to cassette on April 25, 1987 at Club 88 on Pico near Bundy in L.A., a place that "smelled of cats and mildew," according to a fellow scenester. They performed live to drum tapes Richard Derrick had recorded at home in San Pedro and other tapes Crane had recorded at home in Palos Verdes the previous month.

It opens with a doo-wop vocal, sung by Crane - "Ooo, I do, really love you," looped over and over again - that reminded me of Alice's poem, which is steeped in American pop music: Daphne and Apollo reimagined (one might say) as rival Elvis impersonators.

I sat at the brasserie and read "Give" as I listened to this fabulous music, recorded just a few years before the stretch of time in the early 1990s when Alice composed her poem and the rest of Sensual Math (1995), the volume in which it appears.

As I sat there sipping chocolat in a brasserie named after an island in the Seine that shares a namesake with my hometown (St. Louis), I found that a properly paced reading of the poem fits this six-song sequence pretty well, start to finish.

A poetry score was born - or, at least, seeded.

I am going to bootblog the first song from the sequence, with the doo wop opener, but only after bootblogging the very beginning of Alice's poem, so you can hear what I heard in my head in that brasserie in that island in the Seine. The score opens with just voice, a bright but rich woman's voice:

I'll entertain questions before the stellar estrus
commences: if you want
But since it's you I depend on
to change the lines to living

ground and figure, I'd rather have you
find the answers on your own. Remember how

music was aroused in the old technology?
Cue Another Umbrella, after the sound of a needle hitting vinyl groove ...

Free mp3

"Really Love You"
(Crane, Richard Derrick)
Another Umbrella


Image of a beautiful woman (not Alice Fulton, who is also beautiful) at the Brasserie de Isle de St. Louis from Peter Turnley/Corbis on the National Geographic site.

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