Monday, March 2, 2009

SPOTLIGHT: A Rondeau Redouble and a Rondel by Ned Balbo

Rescuing the Voices

The story of the Langley sessions is...part of the mystique--
how a young rock guitarist, needing a job, became a gypsy
music teacher in a Canadian farm region and created timeless
recordings that were never intended to be heard beyond
the school community’s perimeter.

--Irwin Chusid, liner notes to the CD Innocence and Despair:
The Langley School Music Project

You know the songs--“Space Oddity,” “Good Vibrations,”
“The Long and Winding Road,” a dozen more--
arranged for voice, percussion, xylophones,
performed by untrained children near Vancouver

during the ’70’s, gathered together
from different rural schools to take positions
on the risers, facing the young conductor
who led them through “Space Oddity,” “Good Vibrations,”

captured in Spector-sized echo, young musicians
filling the school gymnasium with fervor,
missing their notes in unison, expressions
rapt for “The Long and Winding Road,” and more,

classics and corn, “Mandy” and “Wildfire”
sung into empty space: ideal conditions,
strangely, for making a record, the teacher’s guitar
steadying voices, percussion, xylophones

pinging, mostly on cue, throughout the sessions
no audience but the children and their director
witnessed, caught in one take, the imperfections
of voices from the outskirts of Vancouver

pressed onto vinyl, forgotten. But their renditions,
rediscovered, survive. You ain't gettin' no younger
chorus gone silent, a soloist, past all questions,
sings to every desperate listener
who needs her song.

Note: In “Rescuing the Voices,” nine-year-old soloist Sheila Behman sings Don Henley and Glenn Frey’s “Desperado”; Hans Louis Fenger is conductor/arranger (as well as guitarist/pianist) for the Langley Schools recordings. The CD Innocence and Despair: The Langley School Music Project is available from Bar/None Records.

Rondel for a Timepiece Not Yet Obsolete
  In an age awash with digital devices from cell phones to PDAs, plugged-in people of all    ages are opting to leave their old timepiece at home.
--Susan Lee, “Are wristwatches becoming obsolete?”
 Columbia News Service, December 27, 2005

Analog watch--wrist-worn circle of time,
ticking the days away in symmetries
Swiss-made and sleepless, tireless mysteries
concealed by stainless steel--your hours rhyme

in sets of twelve. Essential in your prime,
object of habit now, set me at ease,
analog wristwatch, worn circle of time.
Keep ticking away the days in symmetries

that call to mind the past: sleek hands that climb,
pointing across a face that’s not a face,
as if in search of lost simplicities….
Earth’s orbit round the sun your paradigm,
how soon will you run down, worn-out? Circle of time.

BIO: Ned Balbo's books are Lives of the Sleepers (University of Notre Dame Press, 2005) and Galileo's Banquet (WWPH, 1998). A chapbook of new poems, Something Must Happen, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. He is recipient of three Maryland Arts Council grants, the Robert Frost Foundation Poetry Award, Ernest Sandeen Poetry Prize, and a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year Award. He teaches at Loyola University and lives in Baltimore with his wife, poet Jane Satterfield, and stepdaughter Catherine.

No comments:

Post a Comment