Setting Patchen to Music
Kyle Gann in 1994 set lines from a poem by Kenneth Patchen to music. "Since college," he has written, "I have been a big fan of the San Francisco poet Kenneth Patchen, one of the most compassionate, lively, human voices in modern poetry. (I think of him as the John Cage of poetry, only far more emotional.) In July of 1994 my mother-in-law died, and in August death was on my mind. I had always loved Patchen's line, 'There are so many little dyings that it doesn't matter which of them is death. I sampled his voice reading it from one of his Folkways recordings, deciphered the inadvertant pitches and rhythms of his speech, and based this work for keyboard sampler on the phrase. At first the sentence is imitated by sampled toy piano in a microtonal scale, but gradually the toy piano is replaced, phrase by phrase, with Patchen's warm voice." Now listen to the mp3. Gann's piece is based on Patchen's poem "And What with the Blunders". Gann's site offers more of his music in mp3. If Patchen seems alluring, be sure to read Henry Miller's essay, "Man of Anger & Light."