These are some very rough demos from Poetry, a group of songs that set other poets' poems to music. I thought I'd share them. (Additional not yet released songs include "Willow" by Anna Akhmatova, "Genius Child" by Langston Hughes, and "Something Childish, but Very Natural" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.)
It began with "Annabel Lee". There was nothing intentional or special about the afternoon Edgar Allan Poe's poem turned into a song. I'd read it before without any particular reaction, but for whatever reason, upon that reading, the volume of the melody was so loud in my head that I had to wonder whether the sound was internal or external. I pressed record and got it down in demo form. I wanted to stay as true to every original word as possible, but I did take the liberty of changing sepulchre to graveyard (intentionally) and adding why wasn't it me (accidentally—it just came out while recording) to the very end as an overdub. Then I got curious about whether any other poems would elicit music. Walt Whitman's "A Noiseless Patient Spider" was next. I could hear the rhythm of the spider diligently weaving a web, and that was the piano part. Within minutes, that song was written and the demo followed.
e. e. cumming's "["kitty". sixteen,5'1",white,prostitute]" opens with such a starkly dehumanized introduction that it couldn't be anything but spoken and with equal colorlessness. And the song had to sit as uncomfortably and with as much mechanical sexuality as its words. The melody of Dorothy Parker's "Lyric" jumped off the page in a giant fuchsia and chartreuse hat, and I still can't imagine anyone but Betty Hutton singing it right. I envisioned the serenity of the contemplative existentialism in Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" as gradual layers of voices and synth strings capturing the magnitude of the realization that the only moment we can truly live is the one we're in. And I find myself wondering ... By repeating the refrain about how much he has yet to do and how far he has yet to travel ... Does the narrator talk himself into leaving the moment .... or staying a while longer?