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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

Old Poems Made into New Songs

By November 22, 2010

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Poems are more than song lyrics, often more complex and certainly more independent—take the music away from most pop song lyrics and they collapse into someting very thin, almost transparent. But that is not to say that a poem can&8217;t be remade into a good song, and since there have been poems, composers and songwriters have set them to music. We’ve taken note of several recent instances in the news (see the links below), and that has prompted us to compile a selection of the best contemporary CDs on which classic poems are set to music, old poems made into new songs—with shopping links, for those of you searching for gifts for the poetry-lovers in your life.

from The San Francisco Chronicle:
San Francisco Symphony review: Rufus Wainwright,” by Joshua Kosman
“Rufus Wainwright’s ‘Five Shakespeare Sonnets,’ which the composer premiered with the San Francisco Symphony in Davies Symphony Hall on Thursday night, turned out to be an imaginative, emotionally probing and often beautiful suite of pop songs.”

from The Guardian (UK):
Why poetry and pop are not such strange bedfellows,” by Graeme Thomson
On the occasion of the Waterboys’ March 2010 performances of “An Appointment with Mr. Yeats” at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Graeme Thomson tells the story of how that show came to be: “One day in 2005, Mike Scott decamped to his music room armed only with a long-cherished dream and a copy of WB Yeats’s greatest hits, a brick-like anthology of the late poet’s collected works. For a fortnight, the leader of the Waterboys sat at his piano and ploughed methodically through the book, pushing and prodding at the words on each page until some began to offer a glimmer of a song....”

More on Poetry and Music:
Poems and Popular Songs: Kissin’ Cousins or Closer? (2008)
Poetry and Music, Sister Arts Allied (2007)
Listen to the woodlark’s song: “Lullula” (2006)
Are Songs Poetry? (2004)
Poetry + Music, an Inspired Collaboration (2004)
Caught in the Act, The Making of a Live Poetry + Music CD, by Whitman McGowan (2004)
Ngoma: Entering the Dreamtime with Music and Poetry (2002)


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