Saturday, February 9, 2013

Poetry Scores formalizes Sister City relationship with Los Angeles


Meghan Gohil of Hollywood Recording Studio prepares to record Matt Fuller
demo new poetry scores to Ezra Pound's translations of Confucian Odes in Los Angeles,
the 2013 Sister City of Poetry Scores, an international arts organization
based in St. Louis that translates poetry into other media.

Poetry Scores is here to tell you that our Sister City for 2013 is Los Angeles, California. This is our second annual Sister City designation, with our inaugural Sister City being Istanbul, Turkey.

As with the Istanbul designation, this declaration only formalizes an existing relationship and adds a degree of commitment. We commit to trying to include Los Angeles artists and resources in our projects, and we ask our friends in L.A. to keep looking out for us.

Our inaugural Sister City announcement led to our friends in Istanbul getting us into Contemporary Istanbul, our juiciest international credit (in addition to being profiled on the BBC in 2003). We decided to translate all of our work into Turkish and subtitle our movies in Turkish, and our Turkish sister citizens are keeping up with us.

"On behalf of all of us at Poetry Scores Sister City Program in Istanbul, I would like to extend a warm and hearty welcome to everyone in our new Sister City; Los Angeles, California," Ipek Tuna Subasi writes from Istanbul. "We are so excited to have you and to pass on you the light while keeping ours here bright! We believe that our Sister City Program will take a step further with your skills and efforts and Poetry Scores will reach new heights. Welcome aboard!"

Our new commitment to L.A. has activated Meghan Gohil of Hollywood Recording Studio on our behalf. Meghan is recording basic tracks for our score of Ezra Pound's translations of Confucian Odes. He also is editing and sequencing Barbara Harbach's score of Andreas Embirikos' Phantom of the Dreams' Origin.

Meghan has donated many previous sessions to our poetry scores. One of our primary writers and producers, Matt Fuller, lives in Los Angeles. Meghan has helped Matt and us demo and finish many projects. He recorded many sessions for a work that has been in progress for many years, poetry scores of the great Turkish poet Orhan Veli (translated into English by Murat Nemet-Nejat).

Meghan Gohil of Hollywood Recording Studio during
a Poetry Scores session on the never-ending I, Orhan Veli project.

In fact, Meghan was the first producer for the songwriting team that evolved out of the St. Louis indie rock scene into Poetry Scores. He also plans to help us move into the future with digital publication of the Poetry Scores catalogue. Already he has digitally published four records by bands that evolved into Poetry Scores: Why It's Enormous Richard's Almanac and three records by Eleanor Roosevelt: Walker With His Head Down, Crumbling in the Rain and Water Bread & Beer.

Declaring L.A. as Sister City is decidedly belated. The art for the CD release of our first poetry score, Leo Connellan's Crossing America (2003), was designed in L.A. by Matt Fuller and his friend Jeff Tremaine (producing director of the Jackass franchise and a Washington University alumnus).

Matt Fuller was a founding member of the bands that evolved into Poetry Scores, and since moving to L.A. he has become one of the primary writers and producers of Poetry Scores. Many of our song ideas and source recordings emerged in Los Angeles at Matt's ramshackle home studio in his sister's garage.

Matt also composes and records song sketches and ideas with longtime cowriter/producer Chris King on Chris' regular visits to L.A. Fittingly for a poem about vertical space, they co-wrote much of the material for The Sydney Highrise Variations poetry score from a perch in Coldwater Canyon, in the shadow of the Santa Monica Mountains in the city of Los Angeles.

Data transfer after poetry scoring session in Coldwater Canyon.

Their primitive Cold Water Canyon recording of one song from that poetry score, "Also, it's a space probe," had just the right feel and made it onto the finished record, with vocals doubled, Christopher Y. Voelker's fiddle added, and a steady St. Louis rain mixed in from Adam Long's attic-top studio in Midtown.

Matt and Chris dedicated the poetry score Go South for Animal Index to a musician from greater Los Angeles, d. boon of San Pedro. They wrote most of the record in a city park in Phoenix, Arizona, a few miles from where d. boon was thrown to his death in a van accident. To further honor d. boon, they recorded the basic acoustic guitar and lead vocal in a San Pedro hotel room.

Chris King records a vocal for the poetry score Go South
for Animal Index in a hotel room in San Pedro, Los Angeles County.

We also are longstanding beneficiaries of a creative musician from San Pedro, Richard Derrick. Richard was d. boon's close friend and roommate. Richard released a posthumous record of his jams with d. boon and friends, called just that, d boon & friends.

Richard Derrick at home in San Pedro

Richard was a key player in Middle Sleep, the previously unreleased post-progressive rock band from L.A. that has extensive work on the poetry scores Blind Cat Black (2006), Go South for Animal Index (2008), The Sydney Highrise Variations (2009) and Jack Ruby's America (2010).


Middle Sleep, whose post-prog rock improvisations recorded on Lookout Mountain
in the Hollywood Hills 1982-3 have appeared on four poetry scores.

Richard Derrick later worked on various projects with his friend Crane. They have the distinction of being two of the few musicians not in d. boon's band The Minutemen to get credited as players on a Minutemen record. Richard Derrick and Crane's work as Another Umbrella and Kangaroo Court already appeared on Jack Ruby's America and will be of great use to us on poetry scores for many years to come.

Crane (left) with Poetry Scores child actor Leyla Fern King.

Poetry Scores has yet another deep connection to Los Angeles through the poet K. Curtis Lyle, who grew up in L.A. and came up through the fabled Watts Writers Workshop before coming to St. Louis on the tail end of Black Artists Group. Curtis made a record with Julius Hemphill, the genius composer and Curtis' dear friend, and founded the transformative Warrior Poets, probably still the best performance poetry ever produced in St. Louis.

It's safe to say if there were one creative example in St. Louis most formative to Poetry Scores, it was the example of K. Curtis Lyle (mixed with the wisdom of Lester Bowie, the great composer and bandleader from St. Louis).

In 2007, Poetry Scores published a two-faced art poetry book for K. Curtis Lyle in partnership with Firecracker Press, titled either  Nailed Seraphim or The Epileptic Camel Driver Speaks to a Refugee Death: Elegy for Fakin' Floyd Raintree, depending on which way you picked it up.

Curtis produced his own live score of Nailed Seraphim, with musicians Baba Mike Nelson and David A.N. Jackson. It was performed live, also in 2007, at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary as part of an Art Invitational to Nailed Seraphim we co-curated with Robert Goetz.

Los Angeles poet K. Curtis Lyle performing Nailed Seraphim at
the Poetry Scores Art Invitational at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary.

In homes all over St. Louis hangs art made in response to Nailed Seraphim. One of the most striking pieces we have ever exhibited over the course of eight Art Invitationals is Gene Harris' adaptation of an African power figure, "Nailed".

"Nailed" by Gene Harris, after K. Curtis Lyle (2007) 

Poetry Scores has never scored nor curated an Art Invitational based on the other K. Curtis Lyle poem we published, The Epileptic Camel Driver Speaks to a Refugee Death: Elegy for Fakin' Floyd Raintree. Making a commitment to do those things would be in keeping with this new Sister Citizen relationship, especially since this crazy poem is based closely on characters and events from Curtis' boyhood in Los Angeles.

We also have approached the publisher of a very great, late Los Angeles poet requesting permission to score some of his early, lesser-known poetry. The query went out February 9.

Jeff Tremaine helped Matt design the CD packaging for our first poetry score, Leo Connellan's Crossing America, before he hit paydirt with Jackass. At the time Tremaine was designing a skateboard magazine for Larry Flynt Publications, so our first poetry score was designed on equipment owned by the 1st Amendment activist publisher of Hustler.

Matt Fuller recorded many Poetry Scores guitar parts in a studio that overlooked a location where the great Scarlett Johansson acted in Ghost World . This studio was in his sister's garage. At one time Matt rented the lower floor of his sister's adjoining house, and the upstairs tenant was an actress who dated the ghoul rocker Marilyn Manson at the time.

Before we set poems to music as one scores a film, we had music on a soundtrack, Omaha: The Movie (1995), directed by Dan Mirvish. Actually, several of our band Eleanor Roosevelt's songs on the Omaha: The Movie soundtrack - including "Espoontoon," cowritten with Meriwether Lewis - were poetry scores before we knew we were making poetry scores. Dan, who founded the Slamdance Film Festival, has lived in L.A. for years.

We grew out of the Cicero's Basement indie rock scene of the late '80s, early '90s. Heather Crist Paley, a barmaid and bookie at Cicero's back in the day, is a longtime L.A. resident. "I live in a house bought by Madonna," Heather writes from L.A. "Okay, not really, but my husband was able to buy it based on money he made from the Dick Tracy soundtrack, and Madonna is the reason it made so much. He produced the album and co-wrote a song with Madonna for it. We also have a piano in our house that was a gift to Andy from Jerry Lee Lewis. Since Jonathan Richman is one of Andy's oldest friends, he regularly stays at our house when he is on tour. I met him many years ago through Cicero's and never imagined he would be my houseguest 20 years later (or that he would play guitar at my wedding reception with the SpongeBob band)."

Meghan Gohil is good friends with and engineers recordings for Laurence "Lol" Tolhurst, founding member of The Cure and longtime L.A. denizen.

Meghan Gohil of Hollywood Recording Studio (right), with the officiant at his wedding, Laurence Tolhurst.

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