“La Belle Dame Sans Merci” (John Keats)

I have started a new project setting works of the Romantic Poets to music. Here is my first attempt “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” by John Keats. I visited his grave in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. It was a strange and spiritual experience! I recorded this at home using Cubase 9.5 and various instruments and plug-ins!

 

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
    Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
    And no birds sing.
 
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
    So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
    And the harvest’s done.
 
I see a lily on thy brow,
    With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
    Fast withereth too.
 
I met a lady in the meads,
    Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
    And her eyes were wild.
 
I made a garland for her head,
    And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
    And made sweet moan
 
I set her on my pacing steed,
    And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
    A faery’s song.
 
She found me roots of relish sweet,
    And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
    ‘I love thee true’.
 
She took me to her Elfin grot,
    And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
    With kisses four.
 
And there she lullèd me asleep,
    And there I dreamed—Ah! woe betide!—
The latest dream I ever dreamt
    On the cold hill side.
 
I saw pale kings and princes too,
    Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
       Thee hath in thrall!’
 
I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
    With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
    On the cold hill’s side.
 
And this is why I sojourn here,
    Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

“Aint Misbehavin” by Parisian Swing Band

Here is a recording I have just made in my home studio of Fats Waller’s classic jazz hit “Aint Misbehavin'”. I actually played all of the instruments on this which turned out to be a bit of a trial and more difficult than I thought. A good learning experience though. I play with a band called Parisian Swing and look forward to recording with them in the near future. You can’t beat the feeling of playing with others but it can sometimes be hard getting people together!

Why Am I Living (I Ask Myself) by Kenny Wilson

Here is a song I have just recorded in my home studio. An old song of mine given a new treatment. All existential angst and swirling accordion, mandolin and guitars. I wrote it when I was 23 and it was a breakthrough for me. Previously my songs had been quite restrained and rather bland. With this I made my voice higher and tried to be more expressive. I developed a kind of method of unconscious writing. I was pleased with the result. It is still capable of shocking some people with it’s raw pessimism. It was inspired by the song “Father of Day, Father of Night” from the New Morning album by Bob Dylan although the meaning of my song is almost the opposite.

Dylan’s lyrics are:

“Father of night, Father of day
Father, who taketh the darkness away
Father, who teacheth the birds to fly
Builder of rainbows up in the sky”.

I kind of reversed it. My favourite verse in my song is:

“Father of Nightmares, Father of Dreams,
Show me an answer, say what it means.
I have been searching, I could not find,
I have been living deep in my mind”

This verse still speaks to me from my subconscious mind.

Great Central Railway, Loughborough June 2016

This is a video I have made of the time I went on the footplate of a steam locomotive at the Great Central Railway, Loughborough, U.K. An amazing experience. The music is my recording of the Jug Band classic “Mobile Line”. I learnt it from a record by Jim Kweskin and his Jug Band.

My trip on the Great Central. It was a WW2 reenactment day hence the number of British and German troops!

The Musical Legacy of Amiri Baraka

Very interesting figure. I was very impressed with his poetry and jazz performances especially “Black Dada Nihilismus” that I first heard in England listening to Paris Radio on longwave!

1960s: Days of Rage


“January 2017 marked the third anniversary of the death of poet, activist, playwright and music historian Amiri Baraka, formerly known as LeRoi Jones. For nearly five decades, Baraka stood as a critical figure in black art and literature, helping to lay the groundwork for a radical black aesthetic whose influence has seeped into hip-hop, black theater and spoken word. The central thesis in Baraka’s work was the idea that the history of the black experience in America could be traced through the changes and new developments in black music. In an interview with late NAACP chairman Julian Bond, Baraka laid out his belief that ‘Where the music goes, that’s where the people go. The music reflects the people.’ Beginning in the 1950s with his introduction to New York’s storied modern art and literary scene, Baraka found himself neck-deep in the New York beat movement, collaborating with famed poets such as…

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