Group Three's blog, 2010/2011
Song: "The Righteous Harmony Society Movement"

Group members:
Hadleigh Adams
Steven Fowler
Lucy Roberts
Wenjing Wang

 

Blog 3 – 28/01/11

17.02.11:  » Permalink

Blog 3 – 28/01/11

The experience of presenting our groups work in a collective session was interesting for the fact that each group seemed to have cultivated drastically different methodologies in beginning their project. It shed light on the delineations our group had rather adhered to, with each member of the group sticking relatively close to their own discipline. In no way did this is untoward but it was in contrast to other groups more fundamentally integrated approach.

Lucy Roberts, Steven Fowler and Wenjing Wang met again to speak to the Rebels in control during their residency at the Guildhall. The meeting was engaging and profitable, and stressed how the groups integration was growing but always with a deliberate focus of how the piece’s creative process would progress – from poet to composer to singers, and that the discussions along the way were the creative impetus.

Bearing in mind feedback about poem length and the specific requirements of words being sung, Steven Fowler presented a new poem draft, called Boxer Rebellion:

I am gods hammer
melanoma
my features aged
my mother opium
I am yoke or collar
gate, and foul
your daughter will my nail hear
a christian voice
missionary
repeats instructions
some smile, some weep
how little known the damage
this Guizi causes

I am one of the weeping few
immune
knowing only one road home
I unsheath
my wife
the Righteous Fist of Harmony
the dirt
destroy the foreign
they bring nothing new
yet they
the first to reap

the school of gentlemanly conduct burns
& so men’s names are wiped in women’s hair
shot
I have brooked this river once before
yet I could not have been
this far west
false memory
spirit possession
or the whisper of a past promise
unfulfilled

entreaty
does a Qing horse march to a frontier?
or does it run home
it’s hooves paint black holes
in desert mud
blacker

save us from what we seek
an emblem chest’d
West red
streaks layn asleep upon one another’s
breasts
a blood mark, disease
the cross’d crusader

trouble
double-vision
I eat fists
as though they were peaches
strange profession
I am more
than
my work

Sadness
my mother
moans
arrested
once more
once too often

sleek
in such intimidating shape
the soldier
conditions endlessly
to kill christrian parsimony
he skips hemp & vein
shouting
“hard work
a mean business”

take your opium
& missionaries
dyed blue in coral stone
you will be welcome
bound and torn in three
& laced with reed
wound together to form a cudgel
it whispers wing Wenjing
when swung across ourbare palms
with the towel of the wind
evening rubs down the boxer’s
bloody body
enter in peace
leave at war

It was intended as a starting point for one of the voices. Subsequent discussions suggested the piece might use sound poetry, utilising limited western understandings of what Chinese language sounds, to back up the two voices.

Lucy Roberts replied:

“Thank you for sending this over. I'm afraid that to my poetically untrained mind it's difficult to offer any criticism, I really just thought the poem was brilliant and that we're on the right tracks with subject and content and everything you've done so far. This afternoon in our meeting Wenjing recorded Hadleigh and me talking the poem through (and the older, longer version you'd sent to Wenjing), and through speaking it aloud the spirit of the piece really came through. We both started quite self-consciously but were quickly absorbed by what you had written, it was especially exciting listening to Hadleigh when he gets going!

There were only a few little lines I didn't quite understand, but I'm sure that's more my ignorance than anything else. The first was 'your daughter will my nail hear a Christian voice'- didn't understand the 'my nail', besides being a possible reference to Christ, or a weapon?? And the other line was 'whispers wing Wenjing'- is this like sound poetry, or a play on 'when swing'... it would be interesting to talk to you just to get the meaning of everything clear, I'm sometimes unsure of when/whether lines go through etc. but I'm sure that'll become obvious the more time I spend with the words. Or perhaps it's meant to be read in different ways. I know it needs to be our interpretation too, but it would be great to find out what you intended!

In terms of length, I don't think it's necessarily too long, especially if the text is shared between the two singers, perhaps sometimes overlapped (I don't know what Wenjing has in mind when it comes to the setting). Certain lines particularly stood out for me and maybe some of these will be brought to the fore in the composition - again, mainly up to Wenjing.”

 

Blog 2 – 17/01/11

17.02.11:  » Permalink

Blog 2 – 17/01/11

The second meeting was attended by all four group members and served to extend the initial discussions. Ideas were suggested in depth about the pieces constitution, the singers Hadleigh Adams and Lucy Roberts, discussing their technical preferences and general thoughts on the progress so far. Steven Fowler had written a poem over the Christmas break to begin the discussions.


they bring nothing new
yet they
the first
to reap the upward gust of medicine

the school of gentlemanly conduct
burns
& so men’s names are wiped in women’s hair

pure dirt
fills the form of the novel
enter in peace

technology that serves a purpose
while molesting a lamb
Scandal

be cunning crossed with prison!
a priest of Salt
hex on you

hiss hoss
stepoutwardforemost
last leg
the turning cog

upper leg is right leg
full moan
the bloody bandage is loose

slack
omnivorous dance crasher
slack

& it’s turn is turned
backbent in a spinal memory
the legs x’d in a flourish

two thousands criminal prosecutions
& yet no heart!

no internal organs of any kind
no lungs, liver or duodenum
no mouth even
no blood
no fear of water

only fidelity
to wife & countryside jacket

so the cogs of the judicial
crank
crank, unoiled, oiless, de-oiled
& whatever is within block
crimps – a smile

we watch the road
the dung beetle
to battle

the carrot’s groan
as they touch the brow
of the one walking amongst them
trailings black clogs
newly rescued from a fire
and a red wheelbarrow
full of newly rescued
human excrement
the beetle’s frown
appears a smile
and vice versa

sleek
in such intimidating shape
the soldier
conditions endlessly
parsimonious
he skips hemp & barley ween
shouting
“hard work
a mean business”
before flexing his muscles
& blinding bicep warblers

our general
art with a spade
a nibless fountain pen
& some poorly tendered taxidermy
no wit
a dig for stones
saliva nuisance
& a barrage of mutes
assails the petty sauce
made for a billett
a mother-in-law or something
another pigeon unearthed
encased in janjaweed & bronze
dinner finally ready

Hanuman massage
on iron tires
does nothing to halt the snow!
peace treaty
if not
I shall siege the Steppe
bloodshed
O kindnesses!
how thoughts of you & grime
warm & smiling while peacefully asleep
fills me with courage for the hardest yard
the day
you are both pink & furry
in the most charming of places
of ways
our siege cannot fail

shot
I have brooked this river once before
yet I could not have been
this far west
false memory
or the whisper of a past promise
unfulfilled

entreaty
does a horse march to a frontier?
or does it run home
it’s hooves paint black holes
in desert mud
blacker

save us from what we seek
an emblem chest’d
red
streaks layn asleep upon one another’s
breasts
a blood mark, disease
the cross’d crusader

trouble
double-vision
I eat fists
as though they were peaches
strange profession
I am more
than
my work

Sadness
my mother
moans
arrested
once more
once too often

a muslin body roll
dyed blue in coral stone
is bound and torn in three
each strip is lanced
& laced with reed
then wound together to form a cudgel
it whispers wing Wenjing
when swung across bare palms

I am gods hammer
melanoma
my features slightly aged
(my mother drank)
I am yoke or collar
gate, and foul
your daughter will my nail
an electronic voice
repeats instructions
six or seven times
some smile, some weep
how little know of the damage
this scream causes
I am one of the weeping gew
knowing only one road home
I unsheath
The group discussed the themology of the poem, which would in turn inform the singers participation and perhaps the music, but less so. Historical settings were discussed, the Battle of Ayn Jalut and the Boxer rebellion especially, just as a way of facilitating a narrative. Again discussions centred around the possibility the piece may contain strong elements of formality, despite experimentation being the norm for poet and composer.

It became clear too that the duel voices available to the project would inform its direction. The sessions ended with a general agreement on the subject matter of the piece and further ideas of the form it would take.

 

Blog 1 - 12/12/10

17.02.11:  » Permalink

Blog 1 - 12/12/10

The first group meeting was attended by Wenjing Wang and Steven Fowler. The initial starting point is always an interesting and challenging proposition because the scope is so massive and so little is set. Steven began the process by sending this email.


“To get the ball rolling in terms of thoughts for a communicative beginning in ideas and influences, my position at this point is extremely preliminary and moreover, they are far more about me communicating with you my thought process and interests, than suggesting ideas for the actual piece. My feeling as the weeks went by was that I'd like to write something that had its essence in other peoples backgrounds or interests. I like to be led to new ideas and new concepts and subjects, I want to learn from the project rather than enlist what I have already encountered. I was extremely pleased to be placed
with Wenjing because I was fascinated by her compositional piece, how it engaged Chinese operatic syntax with the use of flutes. The tonality of her music in that instance was complex and exciting.

My feeling is perhaps it would be interesting to do something that isn't necessarily avant-garde but has narrative, so perhaps it is a case of finding that subject and working through it collectively. Perhaps not.

My initial thoughts have gone to Ezra Pound and Kenneth Rexroth's translations
of Chinese T'ang poets like Tu Fu, Li Po and Wang Wei. Their process of rough,
liberal translations into a Western idiom to seek out simplicity is a fascinating subject, it has huge implications in terms of translations and the use of other poetry to begin new poetry.

Then contemporary Chinese literature. The dissident ambiguist poet Yang Lian, who lives in London in fact, and writes incredible modernist poetry. Dissidency in general is an interesting topic. The novel 'The Butcher's Wife' by Li Ang is also a huge point of reference for me at this point.

I am also interested in Western perception, or non-perceptions, of Chinese history. I'd love to work within a narrative from that period, perhaps the Mongol era or even something like Nanking is of interest.

Chinese modernist and avant garde calligraphy is also something I am fascinated by. You can google Zhang Dawo, Pu Lieping, Wei Ligang, Wang Nanmang and Zhang Qiang and you see their work. It informs my conception of concrete poetry, it is amazing. Ties into work by people like Pollock and Franz Kline.

My own starting points in music would be avant-garde work I suppose, I am painfully ignorant in this area - Popul Vuh, Ghedalia Tazartes, maybe Steve Reich. I'm very keen on being informed on new music that I should listen to if anyone has ideas. That goes for everything though.”

The initial discussions followed through on these ideas. Though arbitrary it seemed a Chinese themology was a rich seam to begin with. Discussions centred around the synthesis of traditional and more experimental means of music and poetry, how the project might include both formal poetry, as referenced by the Objectivist Chinese translations, with sound poetry, advocated by Wenjing, and similarly for music, with perhaps a mix of pop and baroque styles in the eventual piece. Steven lent Wenjing the New Directions Chinese poetry anthology http://www.amazon.com/Directions-Anthology-Classical-Chinese-Poetry/dp/0811216055

There also seemed to be an agreement that the Voiceworks project in general was such a new experience that the mediums need not be just haphazardly blended in the creative process and that the poet could write the poetry informed by the thoughts of others but singularly as the composer would write the music alone. The group advocated the synthesis to come about in performance and discussion but with a respect for isolated creative processes, somewhat against the grain of the other groups.