Poetry and Lyrics Festival

This Saturday 10th June, Professor of Sonic Art, Matt Wright, will be performing in Elaine Mitchener’s ‘Song Books’ at the Poet in the City Festival at Kings Place, London, alongside a line up which also includes Brenda May and the Van Huynh Company.

In collaboration with Elaine Mitchener Projects, King’s Place will present an event celebrating the lyricism of John Cage’s iconic Song Books.

Published in 1970 the Song Books were written on commission for Cathy Berberian and Simone Rist. Cage consulted the I ching (the Chinese oracle book) to determine how many songs would go into each book:  56 and 34 were the responses. This left him with the ridiculous task of writing ninety new pieces for a solo singer in only three months. For each song Cage had to ask three questions and receive the answers by tossing coins and consulting the I ching. The answers would give him instructions on how to discover this solo. Both volumes are a diverse, cornucopia of innovative musical ideas, code and fragments that reconsider the lyric in an unlikely, asyntactical guise. Shards of text disrupt and distract, demonstrating his famous claim that ‘there is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing’.

These songs have delighted and beguiled audiences and vocalists alike in equal measure since their first staging with their notes such as ‘perform a disciplined action’. His relationship with his Black Mountain College contemporaries such as Charles Olsen and Alan Ginsberg shines through the works.

Below is a podcast featuring Poet in the City’s Isobel Colchester and Elaine Mitchener to find out more about the exciting Festival programme.