"Poetry atrophies when it gets too far from music," poet Ezra Pound once said.
New England poet Robert Creeley and legendary saxophonist Steve Lacy will inaugurate a "Words and Music" series pairing spoken-word artists with composers and improvisers on Thursday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. in Killian Hall.
The series was organized by Bill Corbett, director of student writing activities, who worked with Professor Evan Ziporyn and music lecturer Frederick Harris on the event. Corbett first saw Creeley and Lacy perform together more than 10 years ago.
The "Words and Music" program will be improvised in two senses. Creeley may read poems of his which are new to Lacy; he may also read poems with which Lacy is familiar, but which they've never "performed" together before. In responding to the poems, said Corbett, "Lacy's solos will be improvised based on what he's hearing, and how his thoughts and feelings about Creeley's poems have changed and grown."
Adding to the free-flow of melody and word will be vocals by Irene Aebi, Lacy's wife. The duo's recently recorded CD, "The Beat Suite," includes Lacy and Aebi's versions of poems by Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and others, in addition to Creeley's poem "Jack's Blues."
Creeley, recognized as one of the major voices in contemporary American poetry, was born in Massachusetts in 1926 and graduated from Black Mountain College, where he befriended Charles Olson and edited the Black Mountain Review. He has published more than 75 books of poems over 50 years. Among his honors are a Rockefeller Grant, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has served with the American Field Service in India and Burma and now teaches at Brown University.
Lacy is considered the first modern musician to specialize in soprano saxophone, an instrument that was completely neglected during the bop era. He began to turn towards avant-garde jazz in 1965 and has worked with Theolonius Monk, Gil Evans and Cecil Taylor. He has won frequent awards from DownBeat magazine as the top soprano saxophonist.
Corbett intends to schedule at least one "Words and Music" event each year and is planning the next one with poet Paul Auster and clarinetist Don Byron, who are already working together. He is hoping for a future booking with poet Seamus Heany, who has been performing with the Irish piper Liam Flynn.
For more information, call 253-7894.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 10, 2004.