Thursday, January 1, 2009

Modoc shamanism via Robert Goetz / free mp3

For some time I have hoped that the form of a poetry score would be adopted by other songwriters and composers. I'd love to hear of other people scoring long poems like one scores a film and releasing them on CDs like we do and calling them "poetry scores".

Not yet happening, as far as I know, though setting shorter poems to music has been going on for a long time and is still going on. Since that fits into the provenance of Poetry Scores - our mission is "to translate poetry into other media" - it's fair to present it here.

Here is an example of such work by one of our own, Poetry Scores board president Robert Goetz, from his personal blog. I know about this piece because I contributed text to it. Robert has an ongoing songwriting project devoted to Acoustic Death Music. At some point he asked me to contribute some lyrics, and I sent him the words to a Shamanic song of the Modoc Indians of California.


What do I remove from my mouth?
The pain I remove from my mouth
What do I take out?
The pain I take out
What do I suck out?
The pain I suck out
What do I blow about?
The pain I blow about
As a head only, I roll around
I stand upon the rim of my nest
I am enveloped in flames
What am I? What am I?
I, the song, I walk here
I, the dog stray
In the north wind I stray
An arrowpoint I am about to shoot
A bad song I am
The earth I sing of


These words originally existed as a song or chant, but they came to me and were passed to Goetz as words only - as a poem, in effect - so I consider his song setting of this text to be a poetry score.

Free mp3

A Bad Song I Am
(words, traditional Modoc; music, Robert Goetz)

Peformed by Acoustic Death Music
Robert Goetz - guitar, vocals
Dallas Woodson - guitar
Anne Tkach - drum
Sherman St. Sherman - bass
Recorded by Roy Francis Kasten


Image of a Hupa (rather than Modoc) shaman from a postcard in Carl Mautz's online gallery.

No comments: