Ruth White and Charles Baudelaire

In planning a future article about setting famous dead poets to music, I received an email from Bobbotov directing me to a YouTube video of Ruth White performing one of Baudelaire’s poems. Her recording is news to me and points out what I’ve been trying to get at: we’re doing nothing new by combining poetry and music but it’s been so difficult to find these recordings that we seem to be creating something new rather than adding to an established art.

In 1969 Ruth White created an  LP on Limelight records that consists of herself reading her own translations of nine of Baudelaire’s poems: The Clock; Evening Harmony; Lover’s Wine; Owls; Mists and Rains; The Irremediable; The Cat; Spleen; and Litanies of Satan. These were set to her own electronic soundtrack.

In 1969 I received The Doors’ Soft Parade for my twelfth birthday and with birthday money I made my first record purchase, The Doors’ previous album, Waiting for the Sun. With the text to “Celebration of the Lizard” on the inner sleeve of Waiting for the Sun, it was also my introduction to poetry. Since then I’ve acquired thousands of records and CDs, spent many youthful hours combing through the bins of records at Downtown Book (Duluth’s largest and only long lasting book/record/gift shop in the 1970s—never mind that it moved every year or two as the leases ran out), spent many more hours in record stores once I moved to Minneapolis in 1984, yet it is only today, April 27th, 2012, that I’ve heard of Ruth White and her recordings of Baudelaire.

I need to explore her recordings and I intend to purchase a copy of Flowers of Evil. This is a promo for the album that I found on SoundCloud, excerpts from the various tracks:

Eventually I’d like to form a timeline of known recordings of combined poetry and music. Right now I can barely imagine such a thing. A few of us know of this piece or that but I don’t know of anyone aware of a larger picture.

Categories: History of the medium | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

About swampmessiah

Real name, Michael Myshack. I was born in 1957 (pre-Sputnik), graduated high school in 1975, and then slowly began coming to life. I am self-taught in the arts as well as most other things: drawing and babbling since a very early age; started painting seriously in 1975; began writing shortly thereafter, but began writing in earnest circa 1977 (beginning with poetry); first started recording poems and music and other sounds in 1996. Other than an individual showing of drawings at the Tweed Museum at the University of Minnesota Duluth in 1983 and being an instigator and participant of a group exhibit of drawing at the Duluth Art Institute in 1985, I have no professional or academic pedigree. In other words, I have a day job. I've been with someone since 1985. Our children were born in 1991 and 1996.

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