© Michael Morais

 

Sometime in 2009, I was given a recording of my father performing some of his poetry on CKUT-Radio McGill, accompanied by music he’d chosen.* The recording was a bit rough – it had been transferred from an audio cassette from around 1989 or 1990, a year or two before my father died.

I started playing with it on my laptop and composed some music around it. It was like a stream opening up, with me creating one piece after the other over the course of a day. I wanted to make a soundscape with the rhythmic patterns of my father’s voice and cadence, as well as his poetic presentation. I wanted to have the beat go back and forth, creating a kind of call-and-response effect.

I ended up dissecting the poetry, highlighting some words, not wanting to disrupt the meaning but putting my own take on them. I turned parts of the poems into choruses and repeated other parts to emphasize certain lines or words. I wanted the music to reflect the content.

These pieces I created so many years ago have been quietly biding their time in my old computer files. Now seems like a good time to let them out.

Here is my sampling of a medley of my father’s poems, which includes excerpts of “Old Lady as I Entered the Metro”** and “Robbed in a Country I Cannot Afford.” The original recording was of my father performing these poems in 1990 on the program “Breathing Fire,” hosted by Robert Harding.

 

 

ROBBED IN A COUNTRY I CANNOT AFFORD

(Saying Goodbye in a Hostel)

Me feeling sorry for you
feeling sorry for me
makes me feel worse
than you think
we can live together
suddenly by the bootstraps
kicking up our heels
in Kentucky
fried kids
letting our hair down
once and for all
have a really healing
hoe-down
South naturally
on smoky blue grass
rolling mountains of it
beneath the bright diamond skies

For goodness sakes
don’t cry, Vickie Lee
the air is warm and rich like fur
the moon burnished gold
here in Jerusalem
the rabbis say
even the streets
where tonight I will sleep
are holy

© Michael Morais

 

My father wrote plays and short stories as well as poetry. This is my spoken word/music fusion of excerpts from his short story entitled “A Collector of Many Things.” Part of the story is included below.

 

 

Heavy with her presence, everything seemed to fade, the flowered
curtains, walls, table, chairs, stove, fridge, and kitchen sink into grey
almost shapeless forms blurry around the edges as though giving up
matter molecule by molecule detaching themselves drawn by magnetism
gravity magic or some chemical process silently through space then
disappearing through the pores and orifices within her body. Her
being like a black hole absorbing everything within proximity. He
felt that space itself was being drawn into her – vast distances
closing – the whole universe consumed. Into her eyes he could not
look at her, or even in her direction, and holding his own tightly
closed he wondered what on earth was she doing here – then suddenly
realised that she had said both alone and in front of witnesses why
she was here – she was her for him – and now, was confidently waiting.

He opened his eyes with the frightening awareness that if he
did not act immediately he might soon disappear. He swore not to give
in, and in an effort to resist he did the only sensible thing left within what he feared were his already diminished powers . . .

 

Excerpt from “A Collector of Many Things”© Michael Morais

 

My father’s seminal poem nicknamed “Semen stick together” was dedicated to his friend and fellow writer Dan Daniels, who was a merchant marine seaman. Here’s what it sounds like with my music stirred into the mix.

 

 

Excerpt from “For Semen Everywhere” © Michael Morais

 

Here is my fusion take on it “My Aunt Tillie,”** performed by my father in 1990 on CKUT’s “Breathing Fire,” hosted by Robert Harding.

 

 

 

© Michael Morais

 

Spoken word/music fusion and samplings © Gavin Morais

 

The writings featured in Gavin’s music will be published in an upcoming collection of his father’s work.

For more on Gavin Morais’ art, visit his website.

 

 

___________

* My father’s radio performance in 1990 included Joan Armatrading, Memphis Slim, Tom Waits, Timothy Buckley and an unidentified dub artist.

** The first and last poems sampled here, “Old Lady as I Entered the Metro” and “My Aunt Tillie,” were published in the student newspaper The Link Magazine on March 27, 1981.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gavin Morais’ quixotic figures at first seem to harken homologues of his lithe physical outer shell in this world—strange, stretched-out, thin figures twisting, pleasuring, labouring, and always either reaching out or encroaching inwards—all, it would seem, with the intention of searching for some sidereal star.

At the heart of his figures is, yes, the literal “corpus”—the body stretched into and out of itself, reminiscent of early modern representations of the human body and its inner circuit of skeletal, muscular, vascular, circulatory and abdominal organs. They call to mind artists like Andreas Vesalius in his book Humani Corporis Fabrica Libiri Septem, published in 1543.

Yet Morais, unlike those earlier illustrators of our inner circuitry, seems to be exposing not just an inside of a corpus (with its spleen and entrails) but a more literal assemblage concomitant with the body’s nervous system. In this sense, looking at Morais’ world of twisted figures strewn almost into and out of their own viscera—anonymous lone figures withering, crouching in, or extending outwards—we see the literal affective sensibility of a body that represents some opaque ontological realm. Here, in sculpting his homologue, Morais doesn’t simply sculpt his body or a body—in many senses, the body as displayed seems itself to be the seat of the soul and not vice versa.

The son of a performance poet and nephew of a reputed photographer who worked with Ansel Adams, Morais (a self-trained artist) seems to have turned this sculpting of the world of a particular denizen into something larger than the outside shell we are looking at. Necessarily existential and with glaring allusions to the world of his own ontology, Morais’ figures evidently are simply trying to show us what they are showing us.

Reaching, bending, figuring the manifold ways to occupy space, each of Morais’ beings would seem to be just a figure experimenting with his/her own volume, experimenting with physical space. Yet with his figures’ search for just the right way of occupying space comes the realization that we are necessarily reaching below the particular realm we occupy, to see and grasp some other ineffable realm right here in this one.

 

Starting with clay to construct these rudimentary figures, Morais is drawn to imbue them with the raw life they must necessarily embody, as though at once reflecting quick shimmering moments of the desperado and at once patiently and devoutly posed as intemporal ascetics. Adding watercolour and rubbing in the colours until the spectrum becomes twisted, then sheathing them with the amniotic viscosity of shellac, Morais eventually gives birth to latent characters that must have always occupied his world.

Like Alberto Giacometti’s leaning and standing primordial figures, Morais’ primordial figures seem to reach back even further in their quest to find an original form of their own bodies and of the world they appear to be searching in.

In this sense Morais’ figures occupy several worlds, being both his homologues and primordial figures to which no identity can be ascribed. At the same time, these figures are so struck in their experimenting with the volumetric aspect of space that they appear to be piercing into something else while seemingly dormant and introverted. Instead, what we might suggest is that his figures are contemplators assuming new ways to arrange the body as they think and ruminate.

A closer look at the figures draws us into an almost uncanny valley, glimpsing something from our world, something from a nether world, and something we might see in the future as a future past body. If Morais is seeking anything, it is to find new ways for us to inhabit the space and time we live in, and—beyond the corporeal body—new ways to delve into researching other forms of “existences” we might have passed through or might come into in the future. Strange alien mobile figures—we feel like we have seen them before but they are so deeply immersed in the world they occupy that the only thing we can do is sit back and ruminate on them and with them, as they ruminate on something we just have not yet seen.

All sculpture and photographs © Gavin Morais