5.06.2011

Bogdanovič on the Mountain



PictureEastern Washington University had a wonderful Friday Convocation today. My favorite was sung by our tenor Cody: "Do the Dead Know What Time It Is?" by Dušan Bogdanovič.

Dušan (b. 1955) is a Serbian born composer and guitarist. Jazz and ethnic elements figure into his classical compositional technique as seen in Crow (1990) a type of ballet for voice, flute, guitar, and bass, and Jazz Sonata (1984). "Do the Dead Know What Time It Is?" was composed in 1996 with a text by American poet Kanneth Patchen (1911-72):

  Son, I am going to tell you something
  The like of which nobody was ever told.
  I am going to tell you the story of my mother's
  Meeting with God.
  She walked up to where the top of the world is
  And He came right up to her and said
  So at last you've come home.
  My mother started to cry and God
  Put His arms around her.
  She said it was like a fog coming over her face
  And light was everywhere and a soft voice saying
  You can stop crying now.

Cody performed Bogdanovič's setting with Art on the guitar. It was extremely touching and intimate, foggy clouds of chords, rhythms so complex that it becomes completely natural and declamatory, harmonic dropping tears punctuating the end into silence. Loved it.

Patchen is a poet and novelist who has some affinities with the Dadaists, Beats, and Surrealists and later began to develop "picture poems". This oft-times frightening Billy Collins-esque side of his poetry comes out more in the full text of his poem:

  
   The old guy put down his beer.
Picture
Patchen
  Son, he said,
      (and a girl came over to the table where we were:
      asked us by Jack Christ to buy her a drink.)
  Son, I am going to tell you something
  The like of which nobody was ever told.
      (and the girl said, I've got nothing on tonight;
      how about you and me going to your place?)
  I am going to tell you the story of my mother's
  Meeting with God.
      (and I whispered to the girl: I don't have a room,
      but maybe...)
  She walked up to where the top of the world is
  And He came right up to her and said
  So at last you've come home.
      (but maybe what?
      I thought I'd like to stay here and talk to you.)
  My mother started to cry and God
  Put His arms around her.
      (about what?
      Oh, just talk...we'll find something.)
  She said it was like a fog coming over her face
  And light was everywhere and a soft voice saying
  You can stop crying now.
      (what can we talk about that will take all night?
      and I said that I didn't know.)

  You can stop crying now.

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