Sunday, March 27, 2011 Alvin Singleton 'has adapted three of Dove’s poems into musical compositions'

[Alvin Singleton, Rita Dove]
Reviews, news and ideas on the arts in Atlanta
Books & More
by Parul Kapur Hinzen | Mar 25, 2011
Dove, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. poet laureate, visited Emory University earlier this week for a three-day residency encompassing several readings and musical performances of her work. She was joined in a public conversation about the relationship between literature and music by Robert Spano, conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and distinguished Atlanta composer Alvin Singleton, with whom Dove has collaborated in the past.

“Like the musician, the poet is conscious of measure as she writes, Dove explained. In 'Sonata Mulattica,' her latest collection of poems, music shines through as the center of an imaginary biography. Dove traces the unexpected life of George Bridgetower, an 18th-century mulatto violin prodigy whom Beethoven championed in Vienna until the two fell out over a woman, resulting in Bridgetower’s quick slide into obscurity.

“Singleton, who has adapted three of Dove’s poems into musical compositions, attributes the success of their collaborations to their shared temperament of restraint. His earliest venture with Dove, 'Between Sisters,' is based on her poem 'The House Slave,' about a young slave awakening in the master’s house to the horn summoning less privileged field slaves to work. While the words make clear that Dove 'dislikes that institution [slavery], she never raises her voice,' Singleton observed. 'And that guided me.' So there were no runs on the flutes in his composition, no flamboyancy in the piano playing. Instead, silence became a strong feature of the piece. An excerpt from this mournful song, marked by the trilling sound of a slave cry, was played, and Dove listened with eyes closed in contemplation, as though trying to gain its full meaning.”

“Singleton recalled the pleasure of growing up among jazz musicians in Brooklyn. Though he was made to study classical piano, he was so infatuated by the neighborhood sound, he said, that he composes to this day thinking in jazz structure.” [George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780-1860) is featured at on a page researched and written by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University Conservatory in Appleton, Wisconsin.]

No comments: