Conversations, performances and readings on the relationship between poetry and music
Co-organized by the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study and the Poetry Society of America, with the support of the NYU Humanities Initiative
The Gallatin Writing Program is pleased to present Celestial Twins?, a one-day program of interdisciplinary discussions, poetry readings, and performances, where we will discuss and model some of the ways poetry and music delineate and shape time and space in ways that can be harmonious, analogous, and contradictory. The event is organized in collaboration with the Poetry Society of America and with support from New York University’s Humanities Initiative. Readers and performers will include David Grubbs and Susan Howe, Infuse Chamber Ensemble, Mohammed Fairouz, Wayne Koestenbaum, Masha Lankovsky, Roy Nathanson, and Michael Zapruder.
From the ancient Greeks, whose word mousike communicated a fusion of poetry, music, and dance, to the late 19th-century poets who often repeated Walter Pater’s dictum that all art should “constantly aspire towards the condition of music,” poetry and music have been linked together in myth, scholarship, and practice. They share conceptual terminology—lyric, rhythm, melody, line—and composers write tone poems and poets write preludes and nocturnes. They are, as a recent critic labeled them, “celestial twins.” Like all twins, however, their relationship is one of difference and antagonism as much as similarity and harmony. Poets have often articulated a jealous desire to emulate music—its transcendent immediacy, an ineffable quality analogous to the unity of the cosmos. Philosophers such as Kant recognized music’s emotional power but expressed reservations about its ambiguous properties of expression, claiming that music “merely plays with sensation.” Composers often expressed the fear that to achieve expressive resonance between the music and the text is to risk mere imitation and to lose the “music” in the process. Celestial Twins? will question of the immediacy of experience, the materiality of the score and of sound, the role of improvisation and voice, and the porous lines between hearing, reading, imagining, and remembering.
Discussion with scholars, musicians, and poets, including Emily Fragos, Lisa Goldfarb, Roy Nathanson, and Michael Zapruder, moderated by Gregory Erickson.
Wayne Koestenbaum reads selected poems; Mohammed Fairouz introduces new musical compositions, including settings of Koestenbaum’s work; poet Susan Howe and musician David Grubbs perform an excerpt from their collaboration “Frolic Architecture.”
Performances by Infuse Chamber Ensemble, jazz musician and poet Roy Nathanson, and songwriter, composer and phonographer Michael Zapruder, who recently set poems to music for his album Pink Thunder.
Reception to follow.