The Music Issue, 2016
Created for the Massachusetts Review
from Here Be Sirens, an opera in one act by Kate Soper
Scene 2: POLYXO Explains It All /Second Ship
In a blackout, we hear the SIRENS before we see them:
PHAINO playing sparse, abstract sounds on the piano;
PEITHO singing or humming, lazily and prettily; POLYXO
scribbling furiously on a chalkboard. . . .
What to Take, a poem by Barbara Ras
From the drummer, take the cymbals, the crash, and hi-hat
and walk like you’re shining. From the composer take “water
under snow is weary,” sung by young voices in the timbre
of wind blowing through the antlers of reindeer. . . .
The Bugler Responds to Mary, a poem by Rebecca Foust
After Annunciation by Upper Rhenish Master, and Congressman
Todd Akin’s public remarks about “legitimate rape”
What will He do, slut, if you refuse? He will silence your voice,
break your reed, have you stripped . . .
"And You Know Who I Am": Paul Robeston Sings America,
an essay by Shana L. Redmond
It’s an iconic image of an iconic man: Paul Robeson
standing amongst the workers at the Moore Shipyard
in Oakland, California, singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”. . .
from The Last Bohemian of Avernue A,
a poem by Yusef Komunyakaa
After a gig I’d circle these streets
to air the smoke from my clothes
early mornings, as a light snow
fell in my black beard. I felt
klezmer leapt out of my alto
back there at the Village Gate, . . .
The Blues: Where Love Ends Badly,
an essay by Gerald Williams
In Paris of the 1960s, Mae Mercer reigned at the
Blues Bar — one of Maurice Girodias’s four restaurants,
neighboring his notorious Olympia Press on rue
Saint-Séverin. Her fans were legion. The Beatles often came
to hear her. . . .
an invisible globe — thud, shattering glass, moan,
horn blast — so many . . .
from The Scarlet Professor, a libretto by Harley Erdman
Projection: Washington, DC. 1960. Postmaster General
Arthur Summerfield leads a group of concerned citizens
through a collection of confiscated material.
Come this way, my friends, into my chamber of horrors.
You will not want to gaze, my friends, but you must,
my friends, you must. . . .
from Perfect Pitch, a novel excerpt by Marcelo Cohen,
translated by Judith Filc
Listen: music is born from the human mind, but it also
appears naturally, like the smell of malt, like the taste of
celery. Humans desperately try to prevent it from slipping
through their fingers. They fasten it to the score, to
instruments, to commentaries, to theory books, to records . . .