Sitting down to write my first “reading” of Basil Bunting’s 1977 performance of Sir Thomas Wyatt’ssixteenth-century poem “Blame Not My Lute,” I realize that I rarely read firstly anymore, properly speaking. That is, if I know I will be writing about a text of any kind, I research it before beginning. Were I to be writing an interpretation of the Bunting, for example, I would spend some time perusing relevant scholarship.
This essay by Andrea Brady is the first of five “first readings” we will publish — initial responses to the experience of hearing Basil Bunting cover Thomas Wyatt’s “Blame Not My Lute.” The recording is linked here and also available at PennSound’s Bunting page. — A.F., B.R. & C.W.
Basil Bunting’s voice is so familiar – the Briggflatts intonation, half-Santa Claus, half-priest, that hieratic tone which makes Ezra Pound reach for his kettle drum; those luxurious rolling rs.
Well before I’ve clicked the audio file, the reading begins with the email invitation to (re)produce a “first reading” of a “spoken word” performance by Cecil Taylor. His name rings jazz bells, so I’m reading my mind, too. As a student of jazz vocals in Manhattan, I sat in with Reggie Workman, but didn’t feel free enough to accept the invitation to join his ensemble.
Here I attempt to transcribe my initial impressions after listening once to the full album of Cecil Taylor’s recorded poem, Chinampas,and repeatedly (for perhaps nine or ten hearings) to the penultimate track, #6.56. I was drawn to the editors’ invitation to show the “under the hood” work that precedes a smoothly running piece of writing, their interest in how we deal with poems that exist only as sound texts, and their curiosity about what a first reading/hearing looks like.