Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Jesus Freaks" (Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Robert C. Goetz)

Etching by Robert C. Goetz. Provisional title
supplied by blogger: "Like a man lost on a beach."

This is an image of an etching that Robert C. Goetz made in St. Louis at the time he was scoring poetry by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake for the inaugural Poetry Scores Hawai'i project, Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki.

"Somehow, scoring Hawaiian poetry translated into this image from a stark and domesticated vantage point," Robert notes. "A Midwestern interpretation -- potted banana plant, me in underwear with guitar. A scant amount of clothing, my typical setup when sketching out songs, like a lost man on the beach. There's an ocean of possibility and the hard way of getting anywhere."

I had included Robert in the songwriting process for the Westlake poetry score before Wayne's friend and editor, Richard Hamasaki, took over the Westlake project as executive producer. Robert ended up sharing with Richard demos for three songs he had scored from Westlake's Waikiki sequence, "Jesus Freaks," "Lost" and "Out of Mind," and it was "Jesus Freaks" that made it off the cutting floor.

"It was my most scant score of Wayne Westlake's Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki material," Goetz notes. "It had three chords and a blues progression. I tracked vocal and guitar through one mic and made no effort to add key or tempo change. It's all feeling. I literally read Wayne's poem and strummed chords over it twice and then pressed 'record.' I erased the first take and kept the second."

Richard Hamasaki is an inventive and experienced producer of what he calls Amplified Poetry. From his home base on Oahu, he helped to guide Robert's score of "Jesus Freaks" that he was finishing in St. Louis.

"Months went by, and I maintained an email thread with Richard Hamasaki, about finalizing the song," Robert notes. "Richard asked me to separate guitar and vocal, so I tracked them separately. The album cut is my first guitar take, and first and second vocal takes. The second vocal was done while enjoying some Argentine Malbec. I took the next day off from work and added drums. Drums took 7 takes."

Now that Richard could hear more of what was going on, he could hear more of what he wanted to hear.

"There's a big jump that happens to the sound after I submit my isolated track demo to Richard," Robert notes. "We email back and forth about other instrumentation, and it's quickly resolved that I ask Adam Long to help with cello, production and mixing. Richard is also intrigued by my suggestion of Mark Buckheit's lap steel. Richard tells me that steel guitar is a Hawaiian tradition."

With Adam Long and Mark Buckheit's assistance, Robert completed a brilliant score to "Jesus Freaks" by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake.

free mp3

(Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Robert C. Goetz)

Performed by Robert C. Goetz
Vocals, acoustic guitar, drums: Robert C. Goetz
Cello: Adam Long
Electric Lap Steel Guitar: Mark Buckheit
Recorded, mixed and produced: Adam Long and Robert C. Goetz
Executive production: Richard Hamasaki

Robert adds a footnote about our friend Hunter Brumfield III:

Hunter story ...

Drums took 7 takes because drums are the hardest when you track them last. I remember Hunter tracking drums and insisting on recording them first, before anything.

One evening long ago I caught Hunter in the parking lot of the Schnucks on Arsenal. He was buying beer for a recording session happening off a South Grand side street. We shook hands, and he asked if I wanted to maybe add some guitar or something to a new batch of songs.

The first thing he did when we got to the studio was pop a beer and get behind the kit. Engineer pressed record, drums got tracked, we popped another beer while Hunter laid down guitar. We had another beer while Hunter did vocal.

Years later, I understand the one-man-band approach through watching Hunter. Drums after guitar is almost impossible, because rhythm is everything and you find yourself chasing the song rather than propelling it.

While tracking drums for "Jesus Freaks," I chased it. If you listen, "Jesus Freaks" skips, but by the skin of my teeth.


Robert and I were playing with Hunter Brumfield in the Poetry Scores house band Three Fried Men at the time Hunter killed himself. I'd like to say we consider Hunter's suicide an aberration and entertain the notion that our collaboration with him continues. As Bernard Leach said after his pottery colleague Soetsu Yanagi died, "Yanagi is gone but the friendship has deepened."



George Washington's Birthday - At Honolulu Zoo" (Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Judge Nothing)

Wayne Kaumualii Westlake
Photo by Mark Hamasaki

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Poetry Scores will translate Wittgenstein's "Tractatus" into other media

Ludwig Wittgenstein, roughly as he appeared
in his mid-20s while conceiving of and writing the Tractatus.

Poetry Scores is excited to announce a new, open-ended, international translation of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) into other media, starting immediately with music.

We will score the original English translation commissioned and edited by and credited to C. K. Ogden and largely performed by F. P. Ramsey, who met privately with Wittgenstein concerning his translation and benefitted from the author's own corrections.

This translation was published by Ogden in 1922 in his International Library of Psychology, Philosophy and Scientific Method (an imprint of Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., London), with an introduction by Wittgenstein's mentor and friend, Bertrand Russell. The 1922 English publication was transcribed for Project Guttenberg's online archive, which is the source we will provide to mediators who participate in our Tractatus project.

We have permission from the literary trustees of the Wittgenstein Estate at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. We thank them and Routledge, which inherited the Kegan Paul titles and keeps the Tractatus in print, in the later translation by David Pears and Brian McGuinness. The publisher confirmed that Ogden and Ramsey's Tractatus has entered the public domain in the U.S. and U.K.

It is especially gratifying that our composers will be writing songs with Ogden and Ramsey as well as Wittgenstein. C. K. Ogden was, among many other things, an ancestor of Poetry Scores. In 1929 Ogden made a studio recording of James Joyce reading a passage of Finnegan's Wake, making Ogden a pioneer in the translation of poetry into sound -- and a pioneer who entered the game at the highest level it has ever been played, documenting one of world literature's immortals in his own voice.

We will start by translating Ogden and Ramsey's translation of the Tractatus into music. The Tractatus is a philosophical treatise (that's what its title means in Latin, treatise) written with the style and daring of a prose poem. Because of its length and what Ogden calls "the peculiar literary character of the whole," we don't think it's advisable to assign the entire Tractatus to composers in advance. Instead, we will start with one pair of co-composers and some simple rules that we will all follow as a gradually growing group.


Mike Burgett of The Lettuce Heads, first commissioned co-composer
of the poetry score to Wittgenstein's Tractatus

Carl Pandolfi of The Lettuce Heads, first commissioned co-composer of the poetry score to Wittgenstein's Tractatus

We have asked St. Louis songwriters Mike Burgett and Carl Pandolfi of The Lettuce Heads to start us off. They have been given the Project Guttenberg transcription of Ogden and Ramsey's translation of the Tractatus.

The Lettuce Heads on Confluence City (mp3s)
* Love Lead (Mike Burgett)
When I Plant My Garden (Carl Pandolfi)
* "Nice As" (Mike Burgett)
* "
Wake Up Call" (Carl Pandolfi)
* "
Imagiverbaration" (Mike Burgett)
* "Open air" (Carl Pandolfi)

We have asked Mike and Carl to start scoring the Tractatus musically at the beginning, with the evocative title.


G. E. Moore supplied the title, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which means "Logical-Philosophical Treatise" in Latin. (Wittgenstein's own title, Logisch-Philosophische Abhandlung, means the same thing in German, the language in which the book is written.) The Latin title by which this great work is known has powerful name magic, and we expect Mike and Carl to score just the title as the first song of the score, somewhat in the spirit of an opening credits song in the silent film this poetry score will soon become.


After the title, we have asked Mike and Carl to keep going with the dedication and score it as the second song:
It's poignant to think about this dedication to a dead, dear friend in light of what Wittgenstein says about the Tractatus in the preface that immediately follows: "Its object would be attained if there were one person who read it with understanding and to whom it afforded pleasure." It's impossible not to hear some heartache at the loss of one beloved person who would have read this book with understanding and taken pleasure in it.

David H. Pinsent

David Hume Pinsent and Wittgenstein, who was two years older, were intense friends at Trinity College, Cambridge and long-distance traveling companions, at the considerable expense of Wittgenstein's very wealthy father. Pinsent heard many of the foundational ideas in the Tractatus when they were first coming out of Wittgenstein's head. Pinsent heard many of these ideas before anyone else in private lectures at Cambridge and on long sea journeys to Iceland and Norway.

After the second of their overseas vacations, Wittgenstein abruptly left Cambridge to live in Norway, where he thought the seclusion would help him think through his problems in logic. The two friends were further separated by the World War. Pinsent then died and in fact disintegrated in the air over Frimley in Surrey at the age of 26 while co-piloting a test flight at the Royal Aircraft Establishment. The plane he was co-piloting broke into five parts in mid-air, and no trace of his body was ever recovered.

Meanwhile, Wittgenstein finished the Tractatus while serving the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the War. Mysteriously, he found the clarity he needed to complete his life work in the danger of firefights, rather than a village solitude. His work also took on new ethical and even metaphysical dimensions after Wittgenstein experienced combat on the Eastern Front (and a form of salvation through wartime re-readings of Tolstoy's The Gospel in Brief).

"I had always hoped to be able to show it to him some time, and it will always be connected with him in my mind," Wittgenstein wrote of the Tractatus and Pinsent. He was addressing Pinsent's mother, Fanny, after hearing of David's death. "I will dedicate it to David's memory. For he always took a great interest in it, and it is to him I owe far the most part of the happy moods which made it possible for me to work."

The memory of David H. Pinsent that Wittgenstein puts at the beginning of the Tractatus presents a musical opportunity. For Pinsent and Wittgenstein were a musical duet, with Pinsent on piano and Wittgenstein whistling. They played together in this way so often that Pinsent referred to it in his diary as their "customary" or "usual" way of playing music. (Pinsent's diaries were published as A Portrait of Wittgenstein as a Young Man.)

Wittgenstein and Pinsent were musical junkies -- Bertrand Russell said Wittgenstein's obsession with music was so intense it diminished his accomplishments in philosophy. Their favorite composers were Beethoven and Mozart ("the actual sons of God," Wittgenstein called them), but the Pinsent/Wittgenstein repertoire for their piano/whistling duet was Schubert.

So we are encouraging our composers to use piano and whistling, at some point and in some way, in their compositions -- starting with Mike Burgett and Carl Pandolfi. "Mike is one mean whistler," piano-playing Carl said when he heard of this project.


We have asked Mike and Carl to keep moving and score the motto Wittgenstein chose as the third song in the score. Wittgenstein's motto for the Tractatus is a quote from the Austrian writer Ferdinand Kurnberger. In his edition, Ogden left the Kurnberger quote untranslated in German:
MOTTO: ... und alles, was man weiss, nicht bloss rauschen und brausen gehort hat, lasst sich in drei Worten sagen.
In their translation of the Tractatus, D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness translate this scrap of Kurnberger as:
MOTTO: …and whatever a man knows, whatever is not mere rumbling and roaring that he has heard, can be said in three words
The fact that Ogden leaves the Kurnberger quote untranslated gives us an opportunity to sing some of Wittgenstein's native German near the beginning of our score of the Tractatus. We have asked Mike and Carl to score both the Kurnberger and the English translation as one song.


We were advised to score Wittgenstein's Preface (Vorwort) to the Tractatus by the independent Wittgenstein scholar Jaap van der Does, based in Soest (central Netherlands), who is consulting for us (as a volunteer, like everyone else working on the project).

"From a philosophical point of view, it's crucial in coming to grips with the text," Jaap wrote to us regarding the Preface. While Poetry Scores is approaching the Tractatus as a prose poem, we certainly don't want to hide or obscure the philosophy. So we will score the Preface.

Independent Tractatus scholar Jaap van der Does,
who is consulting for Poetry Scores on our project.

The Preface (Vortwort) is written in eight taut paragraphs of prose, beginning with the most startling opener for a book of philosophy ever written: "This book will perhaps only be understood by those who have themselves already thought the thoughts which are expressed in it -- or similar thoughts."

It seems that these eight paragraphs should yield one song each for a total of eight songs, but this starts to become more controlling than we wish to be. We only ask that the composer(s) always stop at the end of one of Wittgenstein's complete thoughts and not fragment any sentence or proposition.

It also remains to be seen whether Mike and Carl will want to keep going and score the Preface after the three short pops of title, dedication and motto. They have our invitation to do so, but we shall see.

After the prose Preface, it is on to the numbered propositions of the Tractatus proper.

Wittgenstein used an exact numbering system for his propositions that encoded how his propositions were dependent upon other, previously stated propositions. Proposition 1 stands alone, for example, but Proposition 1.1 is dependent upon Proposition 1, Proposition 1.11 is dependent upon Proposition 1.1, and so on.

Wittgenstein took pains to number his work exactly and to explain his numbering system in a footnote. So perhaps we should score and sing the numbers? However, in stretches of the Tractatus where there is a flurry of brief numbered propositions, we'd be singing nearly as many numbers as words. That could start to sound silly and distracting from the poetry (philosophy).

So, we asked our independent Wittgenstein scholar, Jaap van der Does, who is also a musician and poet. His response:
I have always liked to compare the Tractatus with Anton Webern's music (formal, condensed, intense, spiritual) ... Even if this is too far removed from your music, you might want to toy with this analogy. So, instead of singing the thesis-numbers I would try to find musical analogues, such as rhythmical patterns, chords with certain intervals, etc. 
Another way to exploit the analogy, independent of the numbering, would be to alternate a blues-scale (six note series) with the co-blues scale, the remaining six notes (without being too strict about it, of course). It seems this might give a nice alternation of blues and pop-like music
That is good advice we are passing along to our composers. As Jaap later added, "Erik Stenius, an early commentator, once observed that the numbering gives the Tractatus a musical structure."


Wherever our first composer(s), Mike Burgett and Carl Pandolfi of The Lettuce Heads, stop in scoring the Tractatus, they will share a demo of their work with us. Then they will work with us on deciding which composer to commission next.

It will be up to each composer where they stop. We expect them to move forward and take as much of the Tractatus as they need to score one song, but if they feel compelled to keep moving and score a multi-song suite, that would be an option. We only ask that each composer stop at the end of one of Wittgenstein's complete thoughts and not fragment any sentence or proposition.

Each composer added to the project will help Poetry Scores pick the next composer who comes after them, mindful of the text that comes next and what kinds of songs it might inspire or demand. In this way, we expect the Tractatus to travel all over the world, picking up composers as it goes.

We will post the demos in sequence as we get them, and then go back later and add (in the spirit of dependent propositions) evolving drafts of all the demos. Then, eventually, we will post the final recording of each song. We propose to make all of these recordings freely available from the Poetry Scores blog. We propose to declare publishing credit for the songs as shared equally between Wittgenstein, Ogden, Ramsey and each of the musical composers.

When we have enough final recordings, in sequence, to release a Volume 1 of the Tractatus poetry score in some physical medium (vinyl, cassette, CD), we will go back to the literary trustees of the Wittgenstein estate at Trinity College and come up with an equitable publishing plan.

In the meantime, we will be initiating parallel scores of the Tractatus in visual art, selfies, cinema, happenings, and anything else that comes to mind. We encourage anyone, anywhere who wants to translate the Tractatus into any medium to contact Poetry Scores creative director Chris King at Please include links to examples of your work (and a selfie).

Poetry Scores is an all-volunteer international arts organization based in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A., that translates poetry into other media. We believe poetry is an alternative, sustainable form of positive energy that can unite people and nations. We borrow a motto from our mentors at Curbstone Press, taken from the revolutionary Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton: "Poetry, like bread, is for everyone."

Keep track of Poetry Scores and the Tractatus mediations on the Poetry Scores blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Ogden and Ramsey's translation of the Tractatus is available for download at Project Guttenberg.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"George Washington's Birthday - At Honolulu Zoo" (Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Judge Nothing)

It's amazing that Judge Nothing's first contribution to a Poetry Scores project was to a Poetry Scores Hawai'i record and the commission came from halfway across the Pacific Ocean.

This is amazing because Judge Nothing is from Alton, Illinois. Poetry Scores has its roots in a rock band formed by two boys from Granite City, Illinois, just a few miles downriver from Alton. That band, Enormous Richard, grew up in the same St. Louis music scene and on the same national indie touring circuit as Judge Nothing.

And their invitation came from Richard Hamasaki on the island of Oahu!

Richard Hamsaaki produced the first Poetry Scores Hawai'i record, Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki, musical settings of a poetic sequence by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake (1947-1984). Richard was Westlake's friend and became his editor. He is largely responsible for this poetry seeing the light of print from the University of Hawaii Press and being recommended to us by Michael Marshall, our partner at the University of Hawaii - Hilo.

Richard is also a seasoned, talented producer and performer of what he calls Amplified Poetry (spoken word amplified by music), so it was natural for him to take the lead in producing the musical adaptation of Westlake's poetry. Poetry Scores (mainland) sent Richard some suggestions for songwriters, and of those songsters Richard commissioned scores from Judge Nothing, Robert C. Goetz and Three Fried Men. We're blogging those bands' poetry scores of Westlake.

Judge Nothing just blazed through Westlake's poem "George Washington's Birthday - At Honolulu Zoo." Their pop punk aesthetic has seldom been stated with this intense degree of purity.


"George Washington's Birthday - At Honolulu Zoo"
(Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Doug Rafferty)
Judge Nothing 

Recorded and mixed by Doug Rafferty


For more information on Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki and for CD ordering information, contact producer Richard Hamasaki at

Westlake: Poems by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake (1947-1984) is in print with the University of Hawaii Press.


"Christmas Day, 1972" (Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Three Fried Men)



"Christmas Day, 1972"
(Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Chris King, David Melson)
Three Fried Men

Wayne Kaumualii Westlake
Photo by Mark Hamasaki

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Christmas Day, 1972" (Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Three Fried Men)

The "Catholic church" in Waikiki referenced
in Wayne Kaumualii's poem "Christmas Day, 1972"

Christmas season 2013 is underway, which seems an opportune time to call attention to "Christmas Day, 1972," one of mainland Poetry Scores' contributions to the first Poetry Scores Hawai'i musical project, Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki, settings of a poetic sequence by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake produced by Richard Hamasaki.

This record became very much Richard's project, which made sense when we first developed the collaboration with him and Michael Marshall, director of the Art Department at the University of Hawaii - Hilo. Richard was Westlake's friend and editor; without his efforts, Westlake's sole book of poetry in print -- Westlake (University of Hawaii Press, 2009) -- would not exist. Richard also is a seasoned, talented producer and performer of what he calls Amplified Poetry.

Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki is a marvelous record that mixes Amplified Poetry (spoken word amplified by music) with song settings of poems, Westlake's poetry treated as lyrics. Three of the songsters Richard selected for the project, after looking over Poetry Scores' previous records and suggestions, were Judge Nothing, Robert C. Goetz and Three Fried Men. We'll be blogging those bands' poetry scores of Westlake.

Three Fried Men, the Poetry Scores house band, was commissioned to score "Christmas Day, 1972." Richard said he thought many Hawai'i-based artists would shy away from the blatant sacrilege in this Westlake poem. Perhaps Richard really did his homework and learned that Three Fried Men and Poetry Scores have their roots in the goofy St. Louis band Enormous Richard, shameless purveyors of sacrilege ca. 1990.

Three Fried Men's score of this sacrilegious Westlake poem started with a home demo by David Melson, who wrote and orchestrated all of the music himself. Your humble blogger, Poetry Scores creative director Chris King, attached Dave's song to Westlake's poem and came up with the vocal melody. The recording was enabled by Nick Barbieri and his generosity with his portable recording equipment. Mark Buckheit delivered the smoldering electric guitar.

The band prefers a version with more of Mark's guitar, and less vocal, but this mix was Richard's call. Meghan Gohil of Hollywood Recording Studio did the mix (and remixes).


"Christmas Day, 1972"
(Wayne Kaumualii Westlake, Chris King, David Melson)
Three Fried Men

Nick Barbieri - drums, ukulele
Mark Buckheit - electric guitar
Chris King - vocals
David Melson - acoustic guitar, bass, keyboards

Recorded by David Melson, Nick Barbieri and Meghan Gohil
Mixed by Meghan Gohil at Hollywood Recording Studio


For more information on Down on the Sidewalk in Waikiki and for CD ordering information, contact producer Richard Hamasaki at

Westlake: Poems by Wayne Kaumualii Westlake (1947-1984) is in print with the University of Hawaii Press.


Image of the Catholic church in Waikiki borrowed from Rachelle Bowden's blog

Wayne Kaumualii Westlake
Photo by Mark Hamasaki