Poetry Inspired by Music By Nadja Goldberg

Carmina Burana is a cantata written by Carl Orff in the 1930s, using the Latin text from a collection of medieval poems. A cantata is a narrative piece of music with singing and musical instruments. On April 26, at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center, several art departments from SOTA are participating in a show inspired by the works of Carl Orff. The show will involve vocal and instrumental music, a dance performance, and visual artwork; and I and five other creative writers will read pieces we have written in response to the cantata.

To prepare for the show, we met up twice and played sections of the music while writing. As the music resonated throughout the classroom, I was enthralled by the elaborate texture and emotion the music conveyed, with deep, sorrowful solos, delightful, high-pitched melodies, and shrill chords on the violin. We also read the English translation of the 24 Carmina Burana poems, and identified a few common topics from our writing and the poems, such as rivers, mountains, birds, beetles, spring, and cycles. We each then wrote a piece incorporating those topics. I wrote a poem about a lakeside scene at dawn:

 

Five Silhouettes

The lilies sit, glossy and ruffled
Atop the navy water; silver wisps of fog
Drift slowly; from the murky shore, a frog
Croaks a persistent, heavy heartbeat.

The moon hovering, bright and full
Coats the water’s surface with
A white, gleaming sheet.
Frozen, windless air—
Unmoving like a buried breath,
Fearful under the moon
And its unceasing glare.

A single loon drifts along.
Beneath it, water ripples, trembles.

Five silhouettes ascend
The distant hillside; footsteps brisk,
Rhythmic, as pale sunbeams peek
Eagerly over mountain tops, extend
Long fingers that lightly tap a creek
Trickling through grass; night becomes day.

A tiny swift darts overhead;
Sharp wings and tail poke
Up at sky as it lands
On a twisting branch;
Chirps a sugary melody.

Two of the five silhouettes
Tilt softly outlined faces
Toward the swaying tree top.

Bowie by Stella Pfahler

The first time I heard David Bowie was when I was nine years old. I had been hearing him all my life—my father was and is an adamant fan, and so Bowie’s music was always around—but it was at the age of nine when I actually heard him. Before that moment, I had been going through musical “phases”—first it was Michael Jackson, then Queen, then Prince (I always have loved the glam ones). At first Bowie’s music left a figurative bad taste in my mouth. It was scary, nonlinear, unforgiving.

Other than “Space Oddity” and the occasional “Life on Mars” or “Modern Love,” Bowie’s music was mostly absent from radio set lists. Then I discovered my dad’s records. I started with his 1977 release of Heroes and later progressed to Hunky Dory and Aladdin Sane. More recently, I’ve been listening to the back tracks of Low, Lodger, and The Man Who Sold the World.

The thing that has resonated with me in his music is not the startling harmonies, outbreaks of brassy saxophone, or twanging guitar leads. It’s not in the in-your-face, often sexual songwriting, or in the promiscuous and gender-ambiguous manner in which he used to dress. The thing that I love about this man is his ability to change personas, to change himself, at the drop of a metaphorical hat—without ever looking back. This is the type of person that I aspire to be.

David Bowie released his last album on his birthday, three days before his death. His album, Blackstar, was in a way a parting gift to his fans. It is moving to think that he considered the lives of people he has inspired rather than his own.

I was angry when I heard of David Bowie’s death. I was frustrated, and I was in denial. I though that, if anyone should have immortality, it should be a man who changed millions of lives! He had made me realize that I could be as brave as him, as forthcoming. He made it okay to be a “freak.” He was a hero to me for years and years (pardon the expression, Bowie fans). The thing I wish for myself, as both a writer, and a musician, and human being, is to be somebody’s hero like he was for me.

Stella Pfahler, class of 2019

It’s Like Sex (But BETTER!)

by Jules (’14)

Left to right: Alex F., Dorian C., Bailey L., and Jules C.

The thing that I find really engaging about forming and leading a band is that it forces me into a leadership role that I wouldn’t otherwise be in, and I get to take the lead in a sort of communal ecstasy that not a lot of people get to experience. To hear someone playing a beat to your song, expanding on your vocal line, coming up with a bass part to your song, is a transcendental experience because even though I’m the one who brings the stuff to the table, we all get to tear into it and sometimes Dorian will tear off a really interesting drum solo, or Alex will just bake a badass bass line, or Bailey with take one of my vocal lines and cut it up into something completely different, and it becomes something we all get to share. To be able to play your own music, sing your own words, is something only writers get to do. The classical education in SOTA does teach theory, but only those people who want to apply it to creating something get to feel that collaborative ecstasy of having someone expand on something that’s yours. That’s really what The 28 Lifeline is all about. It may be my words and my chords, but I would never be able to sustain it by myself, and it certainly would not have the flavor and versatility it does without Dorian’s beats, Bailey’s voice, or Alex’s bass lines. For us, there’ll always be that moment when we look at each other after nailing a set list, and we just are all grinning because the thought is ‘That’s us. No one can do that but us.’ And that near post-orgasmic feeling is the reason we all do it.