Last night I more or less idly began watching a documentary on Netflix about Nina Simone – and was right from the start transfixed by her words: “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me – no fear!”
From those opening comments in “What happened to you Miss Simone?” I was glued to the screen. One of the words most used by the singer herself is “compelling” – and it fits her appearances.
Musically, she is electrifying: confident, powerful, emotional, unpredictable, distinctive. Like all great artists in any genre (and this is something someone needs to tell warbly teenage wannabe popstars)
she inherited powerful art skills through her family (literature words and performance as her mother was a Bible preacher)
has invested depth into her art by years of studying and acquiring classical technique (classical piano study),
responding to her times and national culture (Civil Rights),
Proof positive that when you’re writing a powerful poem, its shape can be something as simple as a twist on an everyday voice/situation, or the banal pauses between events. And yes, it can include humour. And it can be great in a video.
(Video by Faber & Faber to illustrate poem “Thank you for Waiting)
Creative Takeaway Prompt
Do you have a very ordinary, boring situation/conversation/speech which you hear everyday? Take that form and write it so that you make it talk about something else, something you feel passionately about. Increase the strength of your words at the end to the extreme. (As Simon Armitage does, in this video).
Advanced – time how long you think it will take you to read your poem, allowing an extra 5-10 seconds. Have a friend video you on a mobile phone in that banal situation, then do a voiceover of yourself reading the poem. Finally, have the courage to put it on Youtube and publicise it in social media (this could be as simple as your personal Facebook page or Twitter.)
More video work – look at your written poems so far – is there one whose atmosphere could be videoed in a setting which reinforces the message?
A new piece of classical music is to premiere in Manchester Cathedral on 8th June as part of Manchester Cameratas’ “The Playoff”. The piece was written partly to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Bach’s Cello Suites – written in happier times before the recent explosion. Colin Riley is the composer, and his two soloist cellos (so to speak) went to the same School of Music in Manchester – Guy Johnston and Gabriella Swallow. Here they are, at rehearsals.
Caution: watching this video is likely to lead to booking tickets for the concert….
A 2 minute video of Nik, a busker in Bath with Serbian background.
“I love the way that busking as an art-form surprises people and it changes public spaces. No matter where you’re from, there’s a universal language in song”
This video by Lewis Jelley was made using a mobile phone with fish-eye lens.
The story it tells is compact and rich. In merely 2 minutes, it has themes of how music carries a culture and story; how music transports us somewhere else; that it is made by music lovers rather than beggars; what it is to be a immigrant.
For a fascinating study of how two musicmakers, Daft Punk, began and continued a successful joint musical career, while maintaining their work the way they wanted it to be…. this BBC documentary now on Netflix is a must-see.
This official trailer gives only a mild taste for the strength of the story and music:
Because of their unique work method, sound and publicity/marketing, this is also a slice of music history. Along the way, we hear from so many hugely creative and famous people in the music industry – do not miss it. Nile Rogers and Pharrell Williams, Giorgio Moroder, record label executives….
A must for any wouldbe musician performer.
An interesting quote from one of their collaborators, repeating something apparently well known: “Give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”