On December 11 this year, composer Paula M. Kimper and I will be presenting the first reading of her song ‘One Art,’ a setting of Elizabeth Bishop’s poem of the same name. I will elaborate in future posts (oh yes I will!) on the overall project that this song is to become a part of, but in this post I want to explain that subtitle: ‘making something out of nothing.’
It came out of a discussion I had with an artist friend who makes sculpture out of multiple materials and found objects (http://kentcreativelive.org/holder-jill-artist/); I told her that I admired her work, and that my favourite kind of creative output is when artists take bits and pieces of ‘junk’ and recycle them into objects of beauty and fascination. It’s a process that happens in collage and mosaic in the visual arts but poets and writers use it when extracting copy from everyday, throwaway or even painful aspects of life. I love the idea of making something out of nothing, I said. She looked at me in surprise: ‘that’s just what people used to say to me when I was a child – you’re always making something out of nothing – I guess I still am.’
And so I just had to steal this phrase…
my favourite kind of creative output is when artists take bits and pieces of ‘junk’ and recycle them into objects of beauty and fascination
Even more serendipitously, another of the poems to be set is Bishop’s translation of Octavio Paz’ poem Objects & Apparitions. The poem is dedicated to Joseph Cornell, a collage artist who called his works ‘assemblages.’ (http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/cornell/) The poem ends on the line: ‘inside your boxes / my words became visible for a moment.’
Bishop’s poem One Art explains that the art of losing is mastered when we realise that no loss is the disaster we fear it to be, and, she slips in at the very end of the poem, we can even use it in our work:
‘…the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.’
This is the powerful thing about creativity: it can turn disaster into something beautiful, something truthful. Where others see nothing, loss, disaster, trash, an artist sees inspiration. And this is as true about music as all the other arts.
Femme Lunatique Productions and Once in a Blue Moon Music present an exclusive first reading of One Art, the inaugural commission for a song set based on the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop. Composer Paula M. Kimper and soprano Laure Meloy will give a work-in-progress performance, read selections of Bishop’s poetry, and discuss plans to complete, premiere, and record this new work.
Thursday, 11 December 2014
6:30 – 8:00 p.m., followed by an informal reception
The Charles MacKay Learning Center
The National Opera Center
330 7th Avenue
New York, NY 10001