About Sheaves ~f G l @ a s s.
Sheaves ~f G l @ s s . was originally inspired by Marjorie Perloff, who rhapsodized to me at length about the 1855 first edition of Leaves of Grass. Sheaves ~f G l @ s s . uses Leaves of Grass as a springboard of sorts; however, my stance is that Whitman’s America obviously is not our America—post Holocaust, post atomic bomb, etc. (Whitman himself wrote differently after serving as a nurse in the Civil War.) Any historical material used in my manuscript is from 1892 or later—the last, “deathbed” edition of Leaves of Grass was published in 1892.
Although I love Leaves of Grass, I have never felt completely engaged by parts of the book because women, mothers, people who are disabled, children, “minorities,” etc. are not fully present. I also miss aspects of the natural world.
Only the prologue to Sheaves ~f G l @ s s . is included here. After the prologue, the poem is an epic journey through America, with a concentration on its natural landscape and original inhabitants; this approach was triggered by wonderful lectures given by Dr. Elizabeth Richmond-Garza on 1,001 Nights. A multimedia presentation seemed to be the only possible avenue for the material.
I am grateful to Eric Chapelle for his evocative compositions, to Colin Doyle for his lovely photographs, to Judith Kroll for her hawk-like criticism, to Mary Ruefle for her encouragement to use image “keys” to unlock my poems, and to Tomaž Šalamun for his generous enthusiasm.
Sheaves ~f G l @ s s . is excerpted from the longer work by the same name
While composing music and soundscapes for Sheaves ~f G l @ s s ., I explored various approaches to emulating the sound of breaking glass. I ended up creating some sound design textures that are like broken glass but extend into abstraction—in other words, compositions that allude to the effect of broken glass through music.
My goal was twofold: to add layers of music and soundscapes between sections of the poem that create a bridge; and to add sound textures beneath Lee’s narration to emphasize or enhance her voice and support the content.
I also incorporated an original improvisational piece, which I both composed and performed, called Free Fall Study No. 1. This piece contains segments that evoke the sound patterns of breaking glass. The composition has a chaotic overall impression, yet there are “through lines” of structural integrity that connect its fractured elements. I felt that Lee’s poem reflects these complexities of texture in terms of juxtaposing fragmentation and continuity.
Below are snapshots of my work area in Digital Performer Version 7.23, which is in the music industry called a DAW—Digital Audio Workstation. The images represent just small segments of this project, which required mixing sounds, my original music compositions, and Lee’s narration.
The first image shows names of tracks on the left. The various audio files are represented in the central box; they are stacked on top of one another to make simultaneous sounds. The visual representations of these intersecting sounds are fascinating—they look like blankets and other weavings made by some Native American tribes, or like cities on Earth seen from a satellite. They embody a surprising beauty and logic. The second image contains a snippet of one of my piano compositions for this project. The third image contains another visual representation of the sound interplay.