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Collaboration with a Poet

P.B. Warrington's poetry and my music and photography

This was a very interesting process. My friend P.B.W. sent me this text not long ago:

Still mornings 
bitter before the long days 
sour the crawling dust 
A wind of tractors chaffs this land 
even dew cannot stop this drying 
Much pain lives in the palms of hands 
The most beautiful instruments cry 
Afternoon porches are all conversation 
Vines cling to all 
round them 
beating the wind 
Even in the listening water of a drain 
there is life

The request was that I match imagery to the poem, which I did in a literal fashion - each sentence being wedded to a new image. As an exercise in matching words to images, this was fine, but the weight of the imagistic writing was not really being served. The request from P.B.W. came back in an e-mail stating that the video was fine, but couldn’t we go further. There was an attached sound file of him reading the poem he had written! To add to this, he requested music. I had considered the first video (which you can visit here) a sort of gallery presentation in silence - a brief multimedia experiment, but the sage brush was getting thicker.

P.B.W. wanted to combine everything with his reading. I realized that, given the 40 seconds or so of his voice, photographs would intercut frantically to keep up, which seemed more like a technical exercise than true art. I decided to roll a single photograph based on the opening theme of the poem (now narrated) and to add original music, which I recorded on keyboard connected to a virtual concert grand piano. Once assembled, the effect was stunning and the clarity of the poem was immediately brought to the fore.

This is the collaboration; this is the art.

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You Must Have Something on Your Mind
You Must Have Something on Your Mind
James M. Steeber