|CURIUM | nowever |
June 2006 | MINISITE
Dynamophone presents: an interview
with Curium's Evan Sornstein.
The subject: his first release for the label, 'nowever'.
1) What was the impetus behind the creation of this suite?
I've been interested in linking text to music for a while
and was finishing up a twenty-minute piece with cut-ups
of a poem by William Blake called Auguries
And at the end of working on this, I was complaining to
a friend that working so long on one piece was wearing
me down. He then suggested that I do a suite of really
short pieces, say, less than a minute each. So I thought
about this and it immediately occurred to me that there
are many poems from E.E.
Cummings that would make some
very interesting material.
Now, it's important for me to step back for a moment:
I don't really like poetry. It never meant much to me – except
E.E. Cummings. When I was a kid, my father showed me three
poets, and one of them, I think now, really set the stage
for how I was to proceed with creating from that point
on. Somehow, Cummings poetry made sense to me. His work
is clever, direct, and profound in a way that no one else
has accomplished. So many of his poems have distinct personality,
so I decided to pick a number of poems that could match
the different ways people speak English. I chose a particular
poem that matched a person and then composed the music
to be 'a setting' that supported the poem. So, in time,
they became portraits of sorts, as well. The poems themselves
became the vehicle for showing the different personalities
of these people.
2) And what was the process like?
asking around to different people in my life who I thought
had an interesting way of speaking, and would search for
a poem that somehow matched them. And I began recording
these people reading the poems: some over the phone, some
in the studio, some at their houses, in the open air – wherever
it worked. Then I set to dissecting the readings and the
poems and conveyed the readings to music, building a sort
of landscape the readings and poems could live in.
I asked my five-year old nephew; my friend's 85-year-old
grandmother; friends and co-workers from Nicaragua, Scotland,
England, France, Italy, Germany. This process never ended.
It took over two years and I could have kept going. I had
to stop at some point! There are several other accents
I never got or finished: Hawaiian Pidgin, Wisconsin, Japanese
English, Indian English, Icelandic English, Scouse, Cockney...it
really could have turned into quite an accent project.
But in the end, I really need to concentrate on the music
since that is what I like to do most.
3) When you close your eyes, where do you see this suite
being played? In what environments?
The suite does require a good amount of attention to really
take it in, and sitting at home with the booklet and headphones
does make sense. However, I have also been working on a
video installation of environments to help support and
focus the listening process and the experience of the pieces.
The music by itself is mostly calming and doesn't need
to be paid close attention to. But to fully appreciate
the poems, I think that sitting down and listening in a
focused manner is the perfect way.
4) Who are your influences?
Influences in which way? Musically? Artistically? See,
E.E. Cummings disregarded so many rules about how poetry
was to be written and heard. I thought it appropriate to
take a similar approach to the presentation of his poetry.
They are not performed or edited in a way that is 'normal'
but I think they do the poems justice. I can't venture
to think if he would like them, however!
5) What equipment do you use?
My better judgement? Oh, a Mac. Propellerhead's Reason
ws the sole sound source. A basic AT4033 Audio
microphone and Digital Performer for the digital editing.
6) What have you learned about Cummings through the creation
of the suite?
What I did learn was an even greater
appreciation of Cumming's spirit and wit. I read hundreds
of his poems to find the right ones for Nowever. It was
like doing a research project on him. There are a few poems
I really love which I did not use – they were too
sacred, perhaps. Also, there are a good number of poems
of his that are really mind-fucks and wouldn't render well
to being spoken. Listening to them would be way too surreal
and they wouldn't make sense. The one poem we did that
is closest to this dellema, the one read by John Barron:
'now air is air and thing is thing'. That one does take
a good amount of concentration to get what it is about.
I strove to pick poems that can be understood while being
lsitened to – not an easy task when it
comes to Cummings. Being that he wrote mostly in the 1920-50s,
I also realize how ahead of his time he really was. Gertrude
Stein was out there too, but arty and obscure,
while Cummings was direct, honest, and clear.
7) What other poetical projects do you have in the works?
like to go back to some more Blake. I also have in mind
to do something with Gerard
Manley Hopkins; he was amazing.
So playful, yet smart. Currently, I am in the beginnings
of doing another St. John the Baptist with my friend Chris,
using the odd writings of Aleister
Crowley's Book of Lies.
That should be very fun – what an insane