Yesterday I got to do something that I never imagined I’d ever get to do. And it even turned out well!
Through an unexpected string of events, I ended up collaborating with an old theatre buddy who writes, among other things, some poetry in the beat style. He was looking for someone to provide accompaniment and I thought, “I’ve never done that before, why not give it a try?” We worked our way through several pieces and have two in development with more on the way.
Besides being a really cool experience, it also helped validate my case of GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome). As we explored different styles for these poems, I was able to experiment with different instruments until I found the right sound for each piece: electric bass for one and baritone acoustic guitar for the other. Stay tuned to this blog and my website for future updates, including recordings and possibly some video.
It was a total blast. And I actually ended up surprising myself. I’ve always been an auditory person, which has turned out to be a real advantage as my sight has diminished. Even so, I can read print with assistance and I’m no slouch when it comes to language–I even spent a little time as an English major. But when I read through my friend’s poems prior to our session, I really couldn’t think of any musical ideas to use with them. Even reading them out loud to myself didn’t really help. I had a hard time even tracking the narrative flow of each poem, probably because I have to work very hard at reading things visually. But when I heard them read to me, I was able to follow the narratives and come up with some music that the poet really likes. The surprise was just how auditory I’ve become, and how much easier it is for me to work that way. I don’t expect that every poem we try will work out so well, but we both left the session very excited and eager to move forward.
This isn’t lyric poetry we’re talking about, so it’s not really what you’d call songwriting. It’s more like directed improvisation, where I as the accompanist am filling in the background scenery instead of painting the entire detailed picture, which is what I try to do as a composer. I still have a lot of freedom to feel my way along, but in some ways it’s actually easier because I don’t have to create the entire piece.
No matter how you slice it, it was fun and exhilarating and I’m looking forward to exploring yet another facet of the infinite realm that is music.