Tag Archives: artistic beacons

The Question of Culture – responses welcome!

Workshop #1 with Emily XYZ hit the mark, with each of the participants selecting a poem that they believed worked well to read to the group. The voices were diverse in style, content and experience which made for some really interesting discussion and Emily brought the group together superbly, creating an atmosphere for honest critique to be given and received.

As part of the group, it was a real pleasure to have three uninterrupted hours to just talk poetry, the purpose it fulfills and how our aesthetic choices can advance this purpose or hinder it. I am now looking forward to tomorrow night’s class where we discuss the question of culture. Some of the questions Emily has raised include:

Where do you fit in as an artist?
What historical precedents do you recognise in your own work?
Who do you most admire/relate to?
What influences, if any, can you see in your work?
What are you obsessed with, what are the recurring themes in your work?

Would love to hear your thoughts on any or all of these…

 

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QPF Spotlight #11 – Santo Cazzati

Santo Cazzati hit Brisbane last month for two gigs and left behind a trail of whirling words and smiling faces. Both gigs left people wanting more and lucky for us, Santo will be heading back in August to give us all another blast of his unique spoken word style. I asked Santo to tell me about where his poems begin, the importance of the the spoken word, song lyrics and the words he lives by. Here’s what he had to say …

 

Santo

 

How does a poem begin for you – an idea, an image, a phrase?

 

Absolutely never an image or a phrase. Always an idea. I could be going through a bottle of wine when “the idea” comes to me. The idea could be any or all of the following : a piece of music has a striking formal structure and I would like to translate that into poetic terms; I would like to respond to a political impulse but with a poem that is not too obviously “political”; I have been through some kind of intense or emotional personal experience which needs to find some equivalent or “sublimation” (Kant? Freud? Adorno?!) in aesthetic form.
 

You have chosen not to publish your work in the traditional print format. So just why do the words of Santo Cazzati belong exclusively in our ears?

 

Well, I used to try to publish. Got published half a dozen times out of about 500 form letter rejections. Now I know people will say that’s a decent success rate. But the real gratification came when I performed my work out loud. The reaction from listeners was immediate – every time I opened my mouth to perform. If you count all the open mic I do as well as gigs, I am opening my mouth in front of people about four or five times a week. My soul can live off that a lot more than the aforementioned 500 rejections. Besides, a vital component of my work is the use of very precise speech rhythms and intonation patterns. They cannot be notated on the page except in a very cumbersome way which would not be at all reader friendly. The record of the event for me is the CD, not the book. Books are better for novels, literary criticism and cultural theory.
 

It is often argued by critics that song lyrics are not poetry because the lyric is only fully realised when performed. Do you feel the same way about your work?

 

Oooohh these “critics” who so pathologically must define what poetry is or isn’t! What insecurities are lurking behind their endeavours? I’m pretty much an adherent of “reception theory”. It’s a “readerly culture”, to use the term that was fashionable in French cultural theory of the 1980s. If we want to read certain song lyrics as “poetry”, even “high art”, why not? They may not have been intended as such by their writers but they may have characteristics that lend themselves to being regarded in this way. As for me, I have very little control over how my performances are “received” or “read”. Fifty people in a room listening to me will undoubtedly receive in vastly different ways depending on their prior experiences, that day or over the previous ten years. But I love to explore those commonalities that make the live performance something where the overwhelming majority of the audience has tuned in to what we do as performers. That kind of sharing can give us the feeling – the illusion? – that we aren’t really individual fragments of the social whole.
 

Who are your artistic beacons and how have they shaped your work?

 

Mostly they are musical. I am highly influenced by detailed theoretical analysis of music. In addition to that, I am aesthetically and emotionally overwhelmed by music which has breathtaking structural originality and refinement. There are too many examples of this to list here but my greatest musical influences of the last ten years or so are : New York soulful house, nu jazz breakbeat, and salsa and related styles. As for actual writing with words, the shining beacon is James Joyce’s Ulysses. You can hear the musical elements in my use of rhythm and pitch. As for Joyce – oh well, many of us have tried to imitate him, I suppose; my efforts are directed towards his distortions of grammar and mentally fast-paced stream of consciousness.
 

What are the words you live by?

 

Words that sound good when they come out of the mouth. Words that seem to communicate something even when we are not really listening to them or trying to understand their meaning. Words whose “meaning” IS their sound. I don’t just feel this in the formal “performance” situation. Sometimes I find myself in conversations where people seem to be saying things to each other unwittingly and unconsciously. Why did we say that? Why did we talk about that? Why did we choose that peculiar word instead of this one?

 

About Santo:

Santo Cazzati is a spoken word artist. The son of
Italian immigrants to Australia, he emerged from past
lives as a classical concert pianist and avant garde
jazz musician to teach at an elite Melbourne private
school which must remain anonymous in order to protect
those concerned. He performs in a range of styles,
from fast rhythmical delivery to slow atmospheric
meditation, often with a strong world music influence
and critical ironic distance.

 

Catch Santo at QPF 2009:

 

Saturday August 22 – 2:45pm – 3:45pm

Merging into Volcanic: featuring Santo Cazzati & Burn Collective 

 

Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray

 

Sunday August 23 – 11:00am – 12:00pm

Choreography of Chance: featuring Santo Cazzati, Maurice McNamara & Rhys Rodgers

 

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

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QPF Spotlight #8 – Bremen Town Musician

My QPF 2009 program is already suitably inked, with many sessions marked that I just cannot miss. One of those sessions features the blistering soundscape rock of Bremen Town Musician. Their 2008 album, No one is holding a gun to your head (Songs to Run to), is still stealing my breath and I am busting at the seams with excitement to see them stretch their sonic wings at the Judith Wright Centre when they take centre stage on Saturday August 22 in the session, A Canary In Our Throats alongside Brianna Carpenter. To help build the excitement, here’s a recent interview with founding member of Bremen Town Musician, Marisa Allen.

 

Bremen Town Musician

 

How does a song begin for you – an idea, an image, a phrase, a chord?

All of the above really. It seems to be a combination of these things backed up by a strong feeling. When there is a feeling associated with these then there is a kind of momentum that kicks in harnessing all the elements of bringing a song together. They may not all happen at the same time, it may a period of minutes or even years to piece it all together. I’m finding that there is strong visual element to my songs, that the music and the words combined (on a song that is really working) tend to stimulate a visual side when listened to and from this a story is begun.

 

What role does poetry play in your songwriting process?

It’s actually very important. I started out writing poetry independently of songwriting. Being an instrumentalist first, words and hence vocals took a back seat in the process for a very long time and were a separate thing to any music that I was making. Then after coming out of a period of illness and journaling a lot I decided I wanted to write songs with words and indirectly that meant adding vocals. So I just wrote.  And because I had always written poetry first, it was familiar to me, that’s what I started writing. I gave myself 3 years to work on the craft and then another period of time to get co-ordinated enough to sing and play at the same time. Every time I had a strong feeling I would write it, that was the only guide I really gave myself. It was a very gentle process and I just allowed myself to write without critiquing anything. It was also a very disciplined process because I kept aiming for something, so there was a focus, I didn’t know what I was aiming for but when I hit it I knew, if that makes any sense at all… Through this process I like to think that I’m now able to discern quite well between what is certainly a poem and what is a song, at least in my own work. Sometimes though the line between what I would consider should remain a poem and what should become a song isn’t so clear but when that happens it can become a really unusual song.

 

Who are your artistic beacons and how have they shaped your work?

Oh dear! Everyone and no one??? Such a hard thing to pin point. I’ll stick to contemporary artists. If I said one it would be Polly Jean Harvey. I’ve been listening to her work since I was 15 when I first heard Sheela Na Gig coming down through a crackly radio reception on 4ZZZ (how we even picked up 4ZZZ  2hours north of Brisbane I’ll never know!) and I was like who! the! fuck! is that, it was 7 in the morning and I was going to school but that weekend I was down at the only independent record shop in town facing up to the independent record store guy saying have you heard of this person..?? can you order it in..?? I don’t think he really knew what to make of me and could’ve easily just said no, but anyway he ordered it in and I got the album and that was that. Whoosh! .and I cannot explain what it is that resonates with me but it just does. Certainly Dirty Three also. But then there are also such obscure and strange things that are like a light for me such as landscapes and experimental musical instrument makers that shape the entire way I do things musically.

 

 Nick Cave once said that inspiration is a word used by people who aren’t really doing anything. What’s your take on this?

Hey I answered this question in Pascalle’s spoken word workshop in 2007! Inspiration is like an elusive mist that you can never actually capture, some people spend their time chasing the mist, but they are misguided. Inspiration actually comes out of working and is like a muscle or a cog that starts turning once you actually start doing something.

 

What are the words you live by?

“Say it in as few words as possible”

 

About Bremen Town Musician:

Bremen Town Musician are a three piece with Marisa Allen on violin/vocals, Arron Bool on guitar/bass and Dave Bell on drums/percussion playing a blend of experimental/blues/folk at times accompanied only by a single violin to create mesmerizing performances.

Formed in 2005 Marisa Allen emerged as a soloist with the name Bremen Town Musician releasing her first independent solo EP ‘Silent Arrows’ a lo fi exploration of the violin.  Performing as a street musician since 1995 in Australia the U.K and Iceland she was mentored by Geoff Adeney (ex Bullamakanka ‘79 -’81) and Cleis Pearce (DHA, Michael Luenig).

She has toured the United States with Icelandic/American country rock act The Foghorns and performed at Bad Taste Records (Iceland), the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival and Yeppoon Village Festival and was invited to collaborate with Icelandic improv/jazz/noise collective Spuni/Graupan for the Governor of Reykjavik, at Reykjavik City Hall, Iceland.

Bremen Town Musician offer audiences a unique show. In a live setting the band take one step further bringing an album of songs to life with instrumental improvisations and delivering the raw energy the band harnesses.

Watch Bremen Town Musician perform a solo set at SpeedPoets here.

Find out more: www.myspace.com/brementownmusic

 

Catch Bremen Town Musician at QPF 2009:

Saturday August 22 – 6:00pm – 7:00pm

A Canary In Our Throat: feat. Bremen Town Musician & Brianna Carpenter

All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com

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