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
letting our hair down
once and for all
have a really healing
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
© 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.
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.
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.