Monday, August 31, 2015

Poetry Scores to premiere "Grandchilden of Genocide" Nov. 21 at Tap Room

Photo borrowed from Fedgeno.

Poetry Scores will premiere a new work "Grandchildren of Genocide" at The Schlafly Tap Room at 10 p.m. on Saturday, November 21. Old Time favorites Dugout Canoe will open at 9 p.m., and indie rockers Accelerando will close at 11 p.m. It is a free show.

"Grandchildren of Genocide" is a new score of modern poetry from Armenia co-produced by Robert Goetz and Chris King to coincide with the centennial of the 1915 onset of the genocide of the Armenians by the Ottoman Empire.

Composers of the scores include Nick Barbieri, Steve Carosello, Marc Chechik, Robert Goetz, Chris King, David Melson, Ann Hirschfeld, Tony Pupillo, Sherman S Sherman and Mark Stephens. The composers will perform the scores live with a little help from their friends.

Poets scored include Christopher Atamian, Peter Balakian, Gregory Djanikian, Adrian Oproiu, Marine Petrossian (self-translated from the Armenian) and Alan Semerdjian. The poets have all endorsed the project, including co-publication of the resulting songs through Hollywood Recording Studio.

Robert Goetz brought the project to Poetry Scores in an effort to honor a dear Armenian friend, the artist Gina Alvarez, born Gina Korakian. It so happens Chris King, Poetry Scores co-founder, had a best friend from high school, Monica Fanning, who was part of a large Armenian family in Granite City, the Takmajians. You could say the producers' hearts are in this project.

Robert started learning about Armenia out of love for an Armenian, but he came to focus on the genocide by reading "Black Dog of Fate: A Memoir" by Peter Balakian -- remarkably, one of the poets who ended up graciously contributing work for the project when Chris pitched him blindly.

Peter Balakian then suggested we invite the poet Gregory Djanikian and shared his contact information. On that sparkling recommendation Gregory sent us an entire book of his poetry on the genocide, "So I Will Till the Ground," with permission to score any or all of it.

Poetry Scores owes a special thanks to another one of the contributing poets, Christopher Atamian of New York. Contacted out of the blue on the recommendation of a mutual friend, the translator Susan Bernofsky, Christopher contributed poems by himself and his friend Alan Semerdjian (who is also a songwriter). Alan's poem "Grandchildren of Genocide" provided the evocative title for the Poetry Scores project.

Susan Bernofsky also put the producers on the trail that led to the other two participating poets, Marine Petrossian and Adrian Oproiu, who had work in "Trafika Europe 4: Armenian Rhapsody," an online publication that Susan suggested as a resource. Poetry Scores now plans a separate project devoted entirely to the work of Marine Petrossian.

As for Adrian Oproiu -- another musician -- he is the one featured poet not of Armenian descent. He is a Romanian who lives in Croatia. But Adrian liked the idea of the project and agreed with the producers that his poem "Woodcocks," which appeared in "Armenian Rhapsody," also belongs in "Grandchildren of Genocide."

The producers would like to note that not all of the Armenian poetry we are scoring is about the genocide. Not all of it is especially depressing. And the composers have not been directed to brood upon the tragedy, but rather to write the best songs in their own voices to the poems that speak to them. Obviously, the Armenian people survived, despite their terrible losses. It is their survival that we celebrate in song.

The Schlafly Tap Room (2100 Locust St. in St. Louis) makes tasty beers in many varieties, stocks a full bar, and serves delicious tavern (and beyond) food. Chef Andy is mulling over adding an Armenian lunch special the week of our show. Recipes welcome!

Poetry Scores is an international arts collective based in St. Louis, Missouri, that translates the poetry of the world into other media, including music, visual art, cinema, spirits, food, games and happenings.

The Poetry Scores blog will be updated with demos and finished scores as they emerge from the poems.

Borrowed from "Armenian Flag," Armenian genocide on Twitter
The other bands

Dugout Canoe rocking a square dance.

Accelerando live at Lemmons.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tick Tock to host listening party for "Poetry Scored" by Nick Barbieri

Nick Barbieri performs his score of a poem from Josephine Miles' "Ten Dreamers in a Motel" with Heidi Dean, Tracy Swigert, Adam Long and Eileen Gannon.

Nick Barbieri will host a listening party for his debut record as a leader, "Poetry Scored," 7 p.m. Thursday, August 13 at The Tick Tock Tavern, 3459 Magnolia in South St. Louis.

It's a free event. There is a cash-only bar. The Tick Tock connects to Steve's Hot Dogs, serving hot dog classics and creations, and they'll deliver your dogs to the tavern.

"Poetry Scored" is a 12-song effort with a brief instrumental intro. Nick took the title from the idea of a poetry score, a poem set to music like you would score a movie. It's another way to describe the classic form of the song setting, the poem set to music, introduced by the St. Louis-based arts collective Poetry Scores.

Nick writes in a wide range of styles, giving the record something of a musical sampler quality. The through-line is rock and pop, but he also writes a smoldering soul blues, a folk ballad for harp, a vocal quartet, a fanfare, and a synth dance number intentionally made to sound cheesy, in keeping with the tone of the poem.

Nick is a drummer who sings like a bird and can also play a little bit of everything. He is accompanied by all sorts of extremely talented musicians, playing guitars and harp and horns and strings and keyboards and vocals: Brian Henneman, Eilen Gannon, Carl Pandolfi, Alex Mutrux, Obeid Khan, Mark Buckheit, Tony Ostinato, Dino Monoxelos, Frank Catalano, Phil Jost, Nathan Pence, Meghan Gohil, Jay Lauterwasser, Adam Long, David Melson, Heidi Dean, Tracy Swigert and Lyris Hung.

Nine of the twelve songs on "Poetry Scored" are actual poetry scores -- most, but not all, composed for Poetry Scores projects. For Poetry Scores, Nick set to music poems by Josephine Miles ("Longing to Find Myself Out"), Mary Dalton ("The Swallowing," scored as a four-song suite) and Andreas Embirikos, translated from the Greek by Nikos Stabakis ("Desire").

There is a good story about "Desire." Poetry Scores commissioned Barbara Harbach to score selections from Embirikos' Surrealist classic "Blast Furnace," and she discarded six of the prose poems we had selected for her to score. Surrealists adore the concept of chance, and it occurred to me there are six sides to a die for each of those six discarded poems.

So the night of the art invitational for Embirikos, we had six songwriters, including Nick, agree to roll a die the second they walked in Mad Art and score the Embirikos poem we had randomly assigned to that number. They had the three hours of the invitational to write and record it. Nick rolled for "Desire" and scored it that night in a corner of Mad Art where the chairs get stacked, his wife Beth encouraging him and giving him feedback.

Nick also scored Albert Saijo for Poetry Scores Hawai'i, Poetry Scores' first affiliate outside of St. Louis, housed at the Art Department at the state university in Hilo, with a focus on poets of Hawai'i. Saijo was born in the San Fernando Valley, went to high school at a Japanese internment camp in Wyoming and befriended Jack Kerouac in San Francisco, but he lived his best, last years in Volcano, just up the volcano on the Big Island from Hilo. .

Nick also scored two poems by yours truly, Chris King. Though I co-founded Poetry Scores and first invited Nick to compose for us, these songs had other origins. "The Shape of a Man" is the title track, so to speak, from my second chapbook of poetry, and Nick scored it on his own initiative. I love how this song struts and rocks, earning an extremely rare comparison from me: to Lou Reed.

I wrote the poem "Man with Briefcase at #2968443" for a Laumeier Sculpture Park project. Eric Hall invited people to score sculptures, and I decided to write a poem to the Jonathan Borofsky sculpture of the man with briefcase silhouette, and then score my own poem with David Melson. I invited Nick to improve upon my melodic sketch and sing it with stacked harmonies. The song is now in Laumeier's permanent collection.

"Man with Briefcase at #2968443" by Jonathan Borofsky at Laumeier

Though I'm totally psyched and honored that Nick picked up on our idea of scoring poems and ran so far with it, even scoring one of my own poems, he includes two songs he wrote with his own lyrics, "The Ground" and "Fireworks," which are as good as anything on "Poetry Scored." Steve Pick of KDHX said to me that "Fireworks" is a "perfect pop song," and I agree absolutely.

Nick also includes one cover by St. Louis songwriter Chuck Reinhart. "Midget's" is a song I first heard at a Guitar Circle and have held very dear to my heart ever since. A group of musicians associated with Poetry Scores is working on a very occasional series of covering fellow local songsters. This performance was really transformed in the mixing process by Meghan Gohil, the Poetry Scores partner in Los Angeles.

Meghan Gohil (Hollywood Recording Studio) co-produced "Poetry Scored" with Nick Barbieri. He also mixed all but two of the songs. It was mastered by Poetry Scores' co-founder and East Nashville partner, Elijah "Lij" Shaw (The Toy Box Studio). Adam Long mixed the other two songs and recorded three of Nick's vocals. Nick recorded everything else.

"Poetry Scored" by Nick Barbieri is distributed digitally by Hollywood Recording Studio and should be available wherever music is downloaded or streamed (iTunes link). Nick also pressed actual physical CDs that you can  pick up at The Tick Tock on August 13, or through Nick (nickbedrock gmail com).