AL: As much as many poems are written in code — and one is especially suspicious of the ones that seem to be frank — yours are very much about pace and rhythm. They are lyrics for songwriters from the Beat era, and for the best rappers of today. How’d that happen?
NL: Funny, I thought I was writing lyrics for Satie’s piano works.... Do you want a Strange Years playlist?
— From “A Strange Conversation”, sx salon 21 (February 2016)
Over the years of start-and-stop writing, the sound-climate in which I composed the poems in Strange Years was musical as much as verbal. Sometimes snatches of melody worked themselves into the actual poems, like the “three piano notes” in “Reading History”. Sometimes it was a fragment of lyric. More often it was a tone, an aural atmosphere, a shiver.
Erik Satie, Gymnopédies (1,2,3); Croquis et agaceries d’un bonhomme en bois; Vexations
Frantz Casseus, Suite No. 1 (Petro, Yanvalloux, Mascaron, Coumbite)
Boby Lapointe, “Framboise”
Franz Schubert, Piano Trio No. 2 in E Flat Major
Richard Strauss, Four Last Songs (as sung by Gundula Janowitz)
Heitor Villa-Lobos, Bachianas Brasileiras (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9)
Rodgers and Hart, “My Funny Valentine” (as sung by Chet Baker); “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” (as sung by Ella Fitzgerald or Anita O’Day)
Ivor Gurney, “I Will Go with My Father A-Ploughing”
Igor Stravinsky, Ebony Concerto
R.E.M., “Strange Currencies”
Bacharach and David, “Anyone Who Had a Heart” (as sung by Dionne Warwick)
Matthaeus Pipelare, Een vrouelic wesen; Fors seulement
Local Natives, “Wooly Mammoth”
Billy Strayhorn, “Lush Life” (as sung by Johnny Hartman)
Traditional, “If I Were a Blackbird” [alas, I can’t find a version I truly like online]
Traditional, “Río Manzanares” (as sung by Isabel and Angel Parra)
Charles Ives, The Unanswered Question
And a lagniappe:
Traditional, “Congo Bara” (as sung by the Keskidee Trio)