Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Joe Freeman and I hatch a plan to score Bradley Bowers

Looks like Joe Freeman and I really will be embarking on a poetry scores project devoted to the work of St. Louis artist Bradley Bowers.

The idea is to score one or more texts from Bradley's exquisite 2003 book head injuries: vessels and words, published by The William and Joseph Press.

Bradley crafts these uncanny, sui generis sculpted vessels that he paints and inscribes with his own poems and prose poems. This book pairs images of the artwork with the poetic texts printed on facing pages.

Putting aside K. Curtis Lyle, I'm not familiar with a better book by a living St. Louis artist in any medium.

Joe Freeman, frontman of the equally uncanny and sui generis Pat Sajak Assassins, shares my admiration for Bradley and his book. We had talked about doing something with the book but, being two dads with day jobs and other artistic commitments, had left the idea hanging.

I called Joe from Eric Hall's bar at CBGB on Monday night, and he said he would walk over to talk shop after he finished playing superdad. While I waited at the bar with John Eiler, who should walk in the door but Bradley himself, accompanied by Allison Trombley.

James Blackwood also appeared at some point, temporarily freed from the clutches of his temporary dog, one Charlie.

A Monday night at Eric Hall's bar is not the time to systematically take apart a book, looking for just the right texts to score, but Joe brought Bradley's book, and he and I did devote a fair amount of time to one piece in it, "i had a plan".

By the time Joe and I had a text in front of us, James had told us he has a trained voice. So I included him in the shop talk by asking him to read Bradley's prose poem.

"i had a plan"

I had a plan. There are drawings and maps dating back from the age of four. Notebooks filled with failed experiments and revisions. I suffered many illnesses and broken bones. It would take many years to get it right. It involved flowers, music, sunsets, sunrises, maybe a car chase. There were many jobs, long journeys, battles ... It was a very elaborate plan, but that's love.

At some point I would get lung cancer or maybe skin cancer. There would be an affair, mine or possibly my wife's. I would lose some of my hair and gain weight. A house fire would destroy many of our belongings. Our daughter would suffer a concussion from a head-on collision. Regardless of all of life's tragedies, one morning we would wake and realize we had recovered and thrived.

I've had to revise my plan. It's simpler, less painful; at least that's what I tell myself. I sort of removed the order and purpose part of the plan and ended up walking down a dark alley. There I found a broken chair and a lamp, but I didn't want them. I'll save a lot on paper cost. I don't need any charts, outlines, or mission statements. There's nothing to calculate. I just have to live another day and eat lots of candy.

That would be really, really fun to sing! And say. And score.

Joe and I talked it through and over and around, but that got into the method and philosophy of a poetry score, a set of concepts that demand their own elaboration.

Next time.


Image of "Composure" from Bradley Bowers' website.

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