What’s Been Going On?
New Musical Adventures
1) Successful and fun volunteering with summer camp for kids. (see my post elsewhere in this Notes edition).
2) Playing music for Friend Aid, a local event in support of a good friend.
3) More track mixing in the studio; moving me closer to releasing my new album.
4) Sharing my new version of a song inspired by the poetry of Rumi with Coleman Barks, a well-known American poet. As one of the translators of Rumi’s poetry, Mr. Barks has even given me permission to record the song.
Album Release Postponed
During this past summer, I had planned to release In a Circle by late September and then have an album release concert in mid- October. However, after putting myself through the mental/emotional meat grinder for a month or so, I realized that I was NOT having fun and NOT enjoying the process. Therefore, I made a healthy choice for myself to “stop the madness” and slow down the process. Consequently, I cancelled the October concert date and my new album release date will be Spring 2018.
Music Survey Results
Recently, I sent out a one question survey to the Notes subscribers and my other musical supporters. I wanted to find out what media format folks preferred to use for listening to my forthcoming album. So far, I have not been surprised to discover that only a few more folks prefer the media choice of playing a CD over that of accessing my music via a download card. At the same time, a small number of folks would prefer to listen to my new album via a thumb drive. Overall, it appears that half the folks still play CD’s and the other half prefer to download music for their listening enjoyment. Apparently, the music industry continues to be reshaped, due to changes in technology and information access.
Always Room for Rumi
I have appreciated and enjoyed the poetry of Rumi since the mid 1990’s. At that point in time, Coleman Barks, an American poet, published his second collection of Rumi’s poetry. In that same year, Bill Moyers interviewed Barks on his PBS series, The Language of Life.
Those events combined produced two unexpected results. First, Rumi became one of the most favorite poets in America, over 700 years after his death. Second, Coleman Barks became the world’s best known translator of Rumi’s work and has been credited with popularizing the writings of Rumi in American culture.
All Things are the Divine
Rumi (aka Jelaluddin Rumi) was born in the 13th century in present day Afghanistan to Persian speaking parents. He was a theologian and follower of Islam’s mystical tradition of Sufism and remains one of the foremost poets in Islamic culture and history. He founded the Mevlevi Dervish Order, also known as the whirling dervishes, and wrote thousands of poems, many of them ecstatic expressions of the Sufi notion that all things can be seen as manifestations of the divine.
The writings of Rumi are read today in various parts of the world and have been widely translated into many different languages. Therefore, the influence of his universal poetry and prose transcends national borders and ethnic divisions.
Coleman Barks path to Rumi’s mystical poetry turns out to be a fascinating story in itself. In the mid 1970’s, Mr. Barks was attending Robert Bly’s annual Great Mother conference. Bly is a fellow American poet and writer. Also, along with being one of the founders of the men’s mytho-poetic movement, he is known for his versions of poetry written by Kabir, a well-known Indian mystic poet from the 15th century.
Release the Poems from their Cages
As Barks put it, “At that point he (Bly) had been reading translations of Rumi, and he had a stack of these that he gave to me, and he said in his Lutheran Minnesota accent, “These poems need to be released from their cages.” And so I began doing that, just on my own for seven years.” In 1984, Barks published his first collection of Rumi’s poetry, Open Secret: Versions of Rumi. About ten years later, he published another collection of Rumi’s poetry and wound up in the spotlight which gained a newfound appreciation for Rumi’s universal message of connecting with the Divine through the heart.
To Coin a Phrase
Until recently, I thought that Barks had actually translated the works of Rumi. However, that turns out not to be the case. Apparently, he paraphrased Rumi’s poetry into more contemporary language, based upon translations by Rumi scholars. To be honest, I don’t mind the paraphrasing and contemporizing of Rumi because it has made his work much more accessible to myself as a modern poet and songwriter. I am happy to have been inspired by Bark’s versions of Rumi’s work, as they have connected me more deeply with the Divine Mystery.
Found in Second Translation
Here’s an excerpt of an interview with Coleman explaining more of his “translation” process.
I was surprised to learn that you don’t speak Persian. How do you “translate” Rumi’s work, then?
I depend upon scholarly translations and living scholars to give me word-for-word translations, and then I work with the English, trying to be as faithful as possible to the images that come through the words and the spiritual information coming through those images. But I don’t try to reproduce any of the musicality of the Persian. I translate it into American free verse.
So the word “translator” doesn’t exactly describe what you do?
It’s often called a second translation. Someone brings it from the source language sort of halfway to a literal translation and then someone else takes it from that stage to a poem in the English language. Scholarly translations don’t try to do that.
How did you get involved in working with Rumi’s poetry?
Every day I would sit with A.J. Arberry’s translations trying to feel the interior of the poems and to rephrase them. I never thought of publishing them. I just let them pile up. And seven years later, I showed some to Kabir Helminski up at Threshold Books in Putnam, Vt., and he published a little book called “Open Secret,” which won the Pushcart Writers Choice award. That little book has sold more copies every year since 1984.
Great Night of Rumi
For the past eighteen years, Dale Zola has co-produced with her husband, Dan, spoken word events called The Great Night of Rumi and The Great Night of Soul Poetry. In 1999, she also released an album of songs that were musical interpretations of Rumi’s poetry, as “translated” by Coleman Barks. The album’s title is The Breeze at Dawn.
Come, Come Whoever You Are
Around 2005, Dena and I attended a Great Night of Rumi in Sebastopol and that’s where I first heard songs from the album, as performed live. I was so moved by the music that night I had to buy the CD. My favorite track on the album is titled, Come, Come Whoever You Are. One line of the song sums it all up for me; “Though you have broken your vows a thousand times, come, come again, come…”
Here’s another great tune from Dale Zola’s beautiful album, The Breeze at Dawn. It’s titled, What is the Soul?
One Inspired Tune Deserves Another
After hearing Come, Come Whoever You Are and carrying it around in my heart for over ten years, I was finally compelled to write a new song with Dale’s song as the chorus. I created the verses based on versions by Coleman Barks of a few different Rumi poems. I’m grateful for my willingness to listen to inspiration when it calls me.
To hear a demo recording of my new song, click here.
May you always enjoy your own connection to the Beloved.
Other source: Wikipedia
High Concept – Sunflower
Sunflower is an instrumental piece of music written by Mason Williams. For those of you who don’t know, Mason was the head writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Also, he is a classical guitarist/composer (ex., Classical Gas) and has dabbled in conceptual art. In 1967, he had the idea for a film: to draw the world’s largest sunflower with the sun itself becoming the blossom. According to Mason’s idea, it was to be drawn by an old bi-wing aeroplane by skywriting. Due to technical difficulties, the film didn’t turn out. However, the still photographer was able to take a few black and white photos.
Musical Slide Show
While the music was written to explore a compositional concept, it originally had a different title. However, Mason changed the song title to use it as music for the short film. So, you might think of it as a slide show with music. And, it turns out that the actual event took place on my birthday of that same year. Enjoy!
Hop on the Bus, Gus
Another interesting conceptual art piece by Mason was a life size photo of a Greyhound bus, folded up and put into a box. In addition, it had a limited edition of 200 copies. After its release, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) installed a copy of Bus in the lobby in January 1968. —Mason Williams
Poetry Spotlight: Remembered
As it so happens, this poem was inspired by my experience at a men’s Pow-Wow up in the Sierra foothills. I spent a weekend with men, singing and dancing and hanging out in a large canvas dome. Along with that, I gathered with Doug Von Koss (Mr. Noah Project) and a few others one morning to sing the sun up. Most noteworthy, a fire was lit on the second day and was kept burning all night long. As the fire burned, one or more men danced around it all night until the next morning. In some traditions, this is considered as a “giveaway” to Mother Earth.
Written by Marshal Jon McKitrick/ July 2001
Bare feet on hot dirt, dancing in a circle
Carrying burdens from my past
Weighed down heavily in the heat of the bright sun
By the pain in my heart
As I move around the circle, I feel heat
Like a hot sidewalk under my feet
And then I feel coolness of evening, soothing and welcoming
Stepping into and out of the Paradox of my life
I realize and remember:
“Hey, I don’t have to punish myself to be Holy
And I don’t have to be good and perfect or else……”
The long road with no ending is my Sacred Road
I am right where I need to be, moving in the direction of Life
And by remembering what I have forgotten, I am being
The gift of helping others to remember
So the Dance of remembering and forgetting
And remembering and forgetting continues
And the Great Mother Drum of the Universe
Booms out Her call:
“Come follow my voice, dearest one
Step by step, Breath by breath
Your sorrow is deep and your joy is wide
And you are loved and remembered”