Putting poems to music in preparation for the above date (at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff) has been a difficult journey but we are getting there.
By ‘We’ I primarily mean my partner in this endevour, Rachel Gill. A few people involved in this have fallen by the wayside, moved on, disappeared. And Rachel has grown in direct response to these losses to fill their spaces and more. It also turns out that in addition to being a fine pianist and someone who is able to read and write music, (Both invaluable to me and this project) she is also a brilliant songwriter. And she sounds like Kim Wilde! Phew! I would have despaired if it had not been for her help in this.
As well as all the organizational migraines involved in getting people together in one specific space at the same time with the same mindset (IE rehearsals) other problems have surfaced in this project. Putting poetry to music is not like putting words or lyrics to music. There’s a subtle relationship between words and music when writing a song ; each nudge the other gently into place. Its like putting a suit on a mannequin on a sculpture, a slightly malleable statue. There’s a sympathy between the two. With a poem as a starting point, the process is more of a struggle. I determined not to change a word of Abse’s poems when starting this venture and it’s been difficult to stick to that although I have.
Poems are NOT lyrics. Often too there’s a lot of words, the metre and rhythm of them is divine and self contained. They don’t want to be opened up and broken apart and rightly so. But it’s a fascinating discipline to put oneself through. And the results are often beautiful.
In short, I don’t think one should put music to poetry. It’s like putting a trifle inside a gateaux. It’s like…putting music to music. Poetry is music. On a page.
Anyway. Judge for yourself. Come to the concert and listen to the below.