Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Friday, November 16, 2007

At the open mic a couple of weeks ago I debuted an Emily Dickinson poem I set to music two years ago, shortly after my dad was diagnosed with cancer. “ ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers.” Before singing it I talked about how I’d always loved the poem ever since first reading it at 19 or 20, having come across it in an anthology I bought at a flea market. But I didn’t set the poem to music until my dad had cancer, of which he died 9 months later. It’s a quiet tune in freely improvised polyrhythms, the guitar playing one loose tempo and the voice singing in another, with basic harmonic/modal overlap. It didn’t go over particularly well. Then my son and I sang “Frere Jacques” in round, him singing in Mandarin and me in French, and the cuteness/novelty factor won people over -- the kid is a hit.

The place is small and the tables were all claimed when we had gotten there, but some women invited us to join them at their table and so we did. When we got back to the table one of the women told me that the Dickinson was one of her favorite poems as well, and that she had found it when her friend was dying of cancer. Then she went up and sang -- beautifully.

Lots of good musicians out there.

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