Bukowski poems set to music (1 Viewer)

Did you know that some of Bukowski's poems have been set to music, for jazz band and choir? The recording was made by an English choir, Hertfordshire Chorus, and the settings composed by an American-born jazz pianist, Roland Perrin. The album is called 'songs from the cage' and you can listen/buy downloads from iTunes or Amazon.
 

hank solo

Just practicin' steps and keepin' outta the fights
Moderator
Founding member
I just listened to a couple of the samples from www.rolandperrin.com/music.html (songs from the cage for choir and big band, words from poetry by Charles Bukowski)

I tried 'roll the dice' and 'my garden'.

I have no idea what anyone involved with those recordings was thinking.

Sorry, no sale.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
I haven't listened, so maybe it's great stuff, but I've never seen the point of setting any poetry to music, nor songs based on non-musical writings. To me, lyrics are one thing, poetry another, each having almost nothing to do with each other. It always feels like the musician is just looking for a marketing hook, and the poetry is the hook. Why not just read the poems? -- that's where the action is. If you want songs, listen to songs. Of course, there's the rare songwriter who is a poet -- Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan -- but most lyrics exist mainly to carry a tune.
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
So that we have full disclosure; what is your relationship to this release? If it is you, or your family member, just say so. Otherwise, it is seen as subterfuge and we hate to be toyed with. Nothing wrong with shilling your own stuff, but to pretend that you just happened to run across this and are trying to help us out when the actual goal is to sell us is quite another thing.

Thanks,
Bill
 

d gray

tried to do his best but could not
Founding member
Did you know that some of Bukowski's poems have been set to music, for jazz band and choir?

not unlike the tragic events of 911, as much as we may try to block it out, we are all painfully aware of such brutal reality.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
Speaking of full disclosure, almost all of my posts (well, not this one) are made between 5 and 6 AM, before I've had a full cup of coffee, and I write a lot of dumb, cranky, wrong and plain zoomy stuff. Just want everyone here to know that I realize how off the mark I often am. There, I feel better. I still don't care much for poems set to music. The poem, if it's any good, sure doesn't need the music. Most the time, it's the music needing the poem.
 
I tried 'roll the dice'...

I have no idea what anyone involved with those recordings was thinking.

Tried roll the dice, also, and I've no idea how there could even be an audience for this dreadful stuff. I'm holding out for a Black Metal band to set The Bluebird to music.

Speaking of full disclosure, almost all of my posts (well, not this one) are made between 5 and 6 AM, before I've had a full cup of coffee, and I write a lot of dumb, cranky, wrong and plain zoomy stuff.

Think you're being a little too hard on yourself. Never read your posts and thought similar. I'm trying to curtail the boozed-up stupid gibberish I've often posted (failed miserably there yesterday - Guinness and soccer, Wheee!). I'm lacking in standards. Now I'm just going to post sober stupid gibberish.
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
I often wish the "edit your post" function was active much longer, like a day or two. But I understand why it isn't. It would be chaos. Apologies for having gone off topic here.
 

mjp

Founding member
Yeah there's nothing worse than a forum thread with 20 posts in it but the person who started the thread deleted their post, or replaced it with "never mind."





Well, there is one thing worse: setting Bukowski's poems to music. Where's the control for that? I want to turn it off...
 

Rekrab

Usually wrong.
More than once I've come back to a thread to tack on a "nevermind my dumb post this morning" only to find the thread is locked. Nothing to do then but just hope everyone forgets it quickly.
 
C

Composer

@Rekrab, I would have agreed with you 100% five years ago, before I rediscovered Buk. I've always hated listening to "classical" (for want of a better term) settings of poetry; Elliot Carter desecrating Emily Dickenson comes to mind immediately. It usually works only when the composer is great and the poetry isn't (Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, for example).

But then I picked up Love is a Dog From Hell, and I found myself hearing melodies and rhythms as I read, and writing notes (both kinds) in the margins. So much of his work, especially from that period, is just so LYRICAL that I couldn't resist setting several, from five different volumes. What's resulted so far is a strange composition, 12 poems plus two instrumental movements, in a style I can't identify as sounding like anything I've ever heard, my own work included. I won't say more, because the point of this post is not to advertise it, and in any case I'm still awaiting permission to use the poems (and to learn if I can even afford the cosrt of securing rights).

So I think some of his poems work very well as lyrics. Of course they can, and have been set horribly in the past. I won't name names, but Buk himself describes his feelings hilariously in How to get rid of the purists.
 

mjp

Founding member
I think some of his poems work very well as lyrics.
Oh, you think they work well as lyrics. Okay. Well, that's much different than those others. You know, the ones who don't have your talent and insight.

Carry on! The world awaits - no, needs - your inspired work! I, for one, cannot wait to hear it.

Mainly so I can confirm that it stinks, and you, personally, are a pretentious douchebag. Like the people described in the poem you cite. The ones Bukowski sought to, "antagonize, deplete, expose and shame." But you don't see the irony there, because, naturally, he wasn't talking about you. You're different.
 

d gray

tried to do his best but could not
Founding member
don't you get it? he's rodgers and bukowski's hammerstein!

or something...
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
I won't say more, because the point of this post is not to advertise it, and in any case I'm still awaiting permission to use the poems (and to learn if I can even afford the cosrt of securing rights).
Have you contacted HarperCollins? They should get back to you. They will probably want $10,000 for rights to put it to music, but I cannot see them just refusing to give you an amount.
 

mjp

Founding member
Well, he does have "deep pockets," so ten grand is nothing to him.

I can't wait to hear the baritone voice, not unlike that of VALERIAN, masterfully reciting the words.
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
I forgot about the 50/50 offer. I would be floored if HarperCollins took an offer that clearly:

1) Would not make them more than $50 - $100.
2) Would require them to either write off what they felt was owed or sue you for said $50 - $100.

Harper has people in the business that know that this will not sell. They NEVER do. They would be insane to attach a business decision to the success of a project which is guaranteed to NOT be a success. That is why they always want the money up front.

Get Lady Gaga to sing Bukowski poems and you could MAYBE turn a profit.

Bill
 
C

Composer

@mjp: I'm truly surprised by the vicious tone of your post, since my point was that poetry can sometimes be set to music effectively, and I provided one example generally considered a masterpiece. I'm not offended by your amusing comparison of me to a feminine hygiene appliance; I've been insulted before by people of slighty above-average intelligence who use hackneyed phrases from second-rate action movies, believing that tearing down others makes them rise in stature. Or perhaps you simply enjoy coming here anonymously to adopt a faux-Bukowski persona. In any case, I've provided no profile information, so you're speaking from ignorance, and you know what they say about ASSUME. I am, however disappointed, that your mind seems completely closed to the possibility that someone could do a good job.

Is my project any better than the Vehar/Ruminski "art songs"? I certainly hope so! I wanted to avoid anything like that, and from the beginning I've worked with a singer who is, to say the least, completely different, a reknowned composer and jazz pianist with extensive experience singing rock & roll. The "baritone" label means only that the range descends that low (down to a low D in fact), and has nothing to do with the vocal style.

If it doesn't work, it wouldn't prove your point that it's impossible, only that I'm inept, or else that I simply failed this time around. I heard melodies jumping off the pages of his books, and I wanted to write them down. I've tried to remain faithful to his work, not changing the words or the implied tone, as I heard it. Time will tell.

Of course I understand irony. That's exactly why I placed that hilarious poem right in the middle, the only one spoken (by me), as a way of poking fun of myself and clearing the air. Geez...

I'm curious, since you apparently believe that any attempts at poetic interpretation are, ipso facto, pretentious and doomed to failure, how do you feel about others reading Buk's words aloud? Is Harry Dean Stanton also on your intellectual enemies list?

@bospress.net: After 6 months, Harper Collins finally told me that Bukowski rights are handled by Ecco. I was put in touch with someone who has placed the proposal before Linda B, so it's in her hands. I don't expect them to take any interest in it as a business project, and I'm looking for an up-front payment. My pockets aren't deep, and are full of holes, so I hope their asking price doesn't bankrupt me. If this doesn't work out, the piece will sit on the shelf until the copyrights expire, ~2060, when my grandchildren can dust it off.
 

mjp

Founding member
@mjp: I'm truly surprised by the vicious tone of your post
That's because you're an idiot.

I'm not offended by your amusing comparison of me to a feminine hygiene appliance; I've been insulted before by people of slighty above-average intelligence who use hackneyed phrases from second-rate action movies, believing that tearing down others makes them rise in stature.
Douchebag.

Or perhaps you simply enjoy coming here anonymously to adopt a faux-Bukowski persona.
That must be it.

In any case, I've provided no profile information, so you're speaking from ignorance
You call it ignorance, I call it experience. Douchebag.

I am, however disappointed, that your mind seems completely closed to the possibility that someone could do a good job.
You're too stupid to understand the underlying point, so I suggest that you go piss up a rope and pray for enlightenment.

Is my project any better than the Vehar/Ruminski "art songs"? I certainly hope so!
Hope is a beautiful and ultimately tragic thing.

I wanted to avoid anything like that, and from the beginning I've worked with a singer who is, to say the least, completely different, a reknowned composer and jazz pianist with extensive experience singing rock & roll.
Ooh! Rock & roll! It's going to be even shittier than I'd imagined!

The "baritone" label means only that the range descends that low (down to a low D in fact), and has nothing to do with the vocal style.
Thanks Professor Douchebag.

If it doesn't work, it wouldn't prove your point that it's impossible, only that I'm inept, or else that I simply failed this time around.
And that you're a douchebag. Don't forget that.

I heard melodies jumping off the pages of his books, and I wanted to write them down.
You are an unbelievably pretentious bag of stale donkey piss. A really large, unwieldy bag of stale donkey piss that takes four grown men to empty.

I've tried to remain faithful to his work, not changing the words or the implied tone, as I heard it.
Covering his work with your shit is not "faithful," it's destruction. You don't understand that because you are an idiot.

Time will tell.
Douchebag.

Of course I understand irony.
Jesus christ, you're not finished yet?

That's exactly why I placed that hilarious poem right in the middle, the only one spoken (by me), as a way of poking fun of myself and clearing the air. Geez...
What the fuck are you talking about, Goober?

I'm curious, since you apparently believe that any attempts at poetic interpretation are, ipso facto, pretentious and doomed to failure, how do you feel about others reading Buk's words aloud?
I'm curious; have you always been a douchebag?

Is Harry Dean Stanton also on your intellectual enemies list?
Is a portrait of Judy Garland tattooed on your ass cheek?

My pockets aren't deep
But in this post here you say they are deep. Which can only lead one to believe, ipso facto, that you are a liar as well as a douchebag.

the piece will sit on the shelf until the copyrights expire, ~2060, when my grandchildren can dust it off.
Your grandchildren will throw it into a big dumpster along with the rest of your shit the day after they bury you, you delusional cocksucker. Then they will have a big party and spend all the money you leave to them on a keg of beer and two pizzas.

Yes, I have seen your future. I am an oracle. I am cool water for your thirsty soul. Yet you reject me. I weep. I weep.
 

mjp

Founding member
If you want to experience the sheer musical genius that is being discussed here, check out some excerpts from PLAY THE PIANO DRUNK LIKE A PERCUSSION INSTRUMENT (2007-10).

That noodling, masturbatory auditory torture just screams "Bukowski!" doesn't it? No?

The genius that is John Charles Melcher. How could I have ever doubted him.

[Image removed at Mr. Melcher's request.]
 
Sometimes music can add a new dimension to poetry but it changes it. Visuals too for that matter. This clip from Mad Men that uses the Frank O'Hara poem Mayakovsky is brilliant on both counts.


I'm all for bringing poetry to a new generation of ADD-kids through any means necessary.
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
Bukowski is dead. Only a living poet should have his poems set to music and only when the composer and poet work together. Still, it usually does not work, but changing a poets inflection and meaning once they are dead is wrong. now if they are Public Domain, then they are fair game...

Bill
 
C

Composer

@bospress, I agree there's a practical advantage in sitting down with the poet/novelist/libettist and go over a project together, espcially if there are multiple interpretations of some text is unclear and one wants to remain faithful to the author's meaning. But I don't believe there's any moral "right" or "wrong" about it, just that (in this case) a Bukowski poem set to music is a different experience than his words read by himself. It can be uncomfortable to experience an adaptation when one knows the original, as when one ses a film made from a favorite novel.

Of all the poets I've come across, none more than Bukowski seemed more interested in "classical music" (his term). Aside form his many references to pieces he listens to, he repeatedly uses the piano as a metaphor for his typewriter, or his work generally. So I don't think it's much of a stretch to adapt some of his work musically.

@mip, may I quote you on the CD cover? "Noodling, masturbatory auditory torture" has a nice ring to it.

Some poets, I believe T S Eliot was one, flatly refused to allow his work to be adapted in any form. Vincent Persicheti wrote "The Hollow Men" for trumpet and orchestra, meant to "evoke" the poem, which is as close as he could get. Others give permission only if their poems are used without changes or abridgements. Still others tend to disassociate artistically from their work since it's finished and published, and give permission easily.

Using a poem as sung text does change it, but the same is true when a novel is made into a film, or to a less extent when somebody else reads a poet's work aloud. And if you mean it's wrong in some moral sense to adapt a writer's work unless you know he or she approves, why would that change once the copyright has expired?
 

mjp

Founding member
Composer to bukowskidotnet 5:58 AM
Please note that a post on one of your forums includes a photograph of me that was copied from my web site. As stated on my site, all media in copyrighted and may not be copied or upladeded without writtten permission.
As permission was not granted, I must ask that you have the photograph removed immediately.
bukowski.net/forum/showthread.php?7307-Bukowski-poems-set-to-music
posted by mjp on 9/5/2010 @12:07am.
Thank you for you cooperation.
John Charles Melcher


---

Mr. Melcher,

My humble apologies. The picture has been removed.

In its place, I present my adaptation of the picture.


douchebag.jpg
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
Hahaha! Great reply, mjp.
Jeez! It looks L. Ron Hubbard's younger brother - on drugs.
 
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C

Composer

... changing a poets inflection and meaning once they are dead is wrong. now if they are Public Domain, then they are fair game...

Wrong in what sense specifically? And why would public domain make a difference in that case? Actualy, setting ANY words to music is not very organic; it usually works better if a musical or verbal "hook" comes first, and it grows from there. Paul Simon described his process this way. The challenge I had was trying to take fully-finished poems and NOT distort them to fit where I wanted the music to go.
 

mjp

Founding member
Wrong in what sense specifically?
Wrong in that they are poems, not lyrics. More to the point,they are not your poems, so it's really not up to you to decide to murder them by trying to make them into lyrics. To graft them onto your shit "music."

There is no reason to exploit and piggyback on a superior talent, unless you are talentless yourself.

It's clear that you don't understand that, which is a big part of why you're an idiot. Not the entire reason, obviously, but a big part.
 
C

Composer

Mr. Melcher,

My humble apologies. The picture has been removed.

In its place, I present my adaptation of the picture.

Yeah, that's what happens when you get a visa photo in Thailand in a studio without air-con! As the legal owner of this image, I have the exclusive right to make derivative works, but I'm willing to negotiate if you wish to secure the rights. :) Actually, I'm very grateful for the free publicity and increased web site traffic that your posts have generated!

I use a computer, requiring the use of both hands, so real "masturbatory noodling" is impossible during the creative process. However, you may indeed find that some of these songs, in particular "Schoolgirls in Panty Hose", provide excellent masturbation fantasies. I encourage you to explore this and let me know of your success.

Also, you'll be happy to know that the CD packaging is 100% compostible, so you might want to buy several to insure a good tomato crop next year.

Anyway, I get your point. You believe that the words of any poet, or at least your beloved Buk, should never be translated into other form, ever, and that anyone who tries is by that very fact (the correct translation of ipso facto) pretentious and pompous. I disagree, and can think of many historical examples. Carmina Burana works better as a musical work than just a collection of old poems.
 
Did you know that some of Bukowski's poems have been set to music, for jazz band and choir? The recording was made by an English choir, Hertfordshire Chorus, and the settings composed by an American-born jazz pianist, Roland Perrin. The album is called 'songs from the cage' and you can listen/buy downloads from iTunes or Amazon.

Sorry, I just checked out this recording. Tragically misconceived. I was laughing out loud wondering how anybody could get that up tempo, chipper vibe off of Bukowski, esp Roll the Dice.

Whether or not this sort of experimentation should be allowed or encouraged is another matter. Doesn't bother me that people try to get creative with stuff, although if the artist is alive then they have rights over their work. Even then, sampling, mashups, and all manner of hybridizing can be interesting. I remember the band Negativland getting into trouble with U2 for sampling in the 80s.
 
C

Composer

Wrong in that they are poems, not lyrics. More to the point,they are not your poems, so it's really not up to you to decide to murder them by trying to make them into lyrics.

Of course not, it's up to the copyright holder to decide. Whether the music is shit, or it's great music rescuing shit poetry (as many people still think of Bukowski's work), or a synergy of two art forms is a completely different question, which can't be answered by you or me.

I do respect your right to insult anyone who violates your artistic credo, and to adopt an aggressive antisocial atttude, in the hope that if you ACT like Bukowski, perhaps you'll WRITE as well as he did. How's that working for you so far?
 
Of course not, it's up to the copyright holder to decide. Whether the music is shit, or it's great music rescuing shit poetry (as many people still think of Bukowski's work), or a synergy of two art forms is a completely different question, which can't be answered by you or me.

I do respect your right to insult anyone who violates your artistic credo, and to adopt an aggressive antisocial atttude, in the hope that if you ACT like Bukowski, perhaps you'll WRITE as well as he did. How's that working for you so far?

Hey, Composer. I just checked out your site. Massive studio setup. How long you lived in Bangers? Hugely off topic I know, but I can't send you a personal message.
 

Black Swan

Abord the Yorikke!
As the dust settles...

Just read "Full Moon", in What matters Most... page 93,
while I listened to Perrin's adaptation.
The poetry was colorful and the music sucked ass, big time! No cigar...
 

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