"The Kissed Mouth":
Words, for an Unrealized Song Cycle

DG Rossetti - Beata Beatrix - Art Institute of Chicago

At the end of 2012 and into early 2013, I wrote a group of verses intended for use in a song cycle. 

The project came my way through Garrett Shatzer, who has since retired from composition. Although he and I would eventually collaborate in 2014 on two other standalone choral songs — "Beset", which made its way to Rome, and "The Map of the Clock" for the Sacramento Youth Chorus [Attention choral directors: listen here, it's very good!] — but various things fell apart and that original song cycle never advanced to the point of actually being set to music. When Garrett stepped away from the composing game, the verses reverted to their author, this fool, and there they remain.

The original task was to craft a group of song texts linked thematically, to be set for two singers. Soprano and tenor voices were the plan, although I would be just as happy if either or both were pegged lower down: I am partial to mezzo sopranos and baritones, myself. No particular theme was suggested, and I soon inclined toward having the singers be characters and toward a set of songs knocking on the door of, if never quite gaining admittance to, the realm of chamber opera. The tenor part would be for a single character, but the soprano would have three.

I proposed the story of a man in Victorian England, who would be called upon of an evening by three apparitions. The man I settled upon was the poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whose life provided any number of candidates for the three soprano spirits. From that pool, I settled on Elizabeth Siddal, who modeled repeatedly for Rossetti and others of his Pre-Raphaelite circle, married Rossetti, and died; Jane Burden Morris, also a frequent Pre-Raphaelite model, who married William Morris but also carried on a longstanding relationship with Rossetti; and Beatrice Portinari, as idealized by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy, and as further idealized by Rossetti throughout his artistic career. Visions of these three appear to Rossetti as he is on the verge of death. He is granted by Beatrice a small personal apotheosis.

The title of the piece became The Kissed Mouth, derived from Boccaccio by way of a Rossetti painting, Boca Baciata, the principal model for which was Fanny Cornforth, who does not appear in these verses even though, of the women important to Rossetti, she is the one, apart from his sister Christina, most likely to have actually been near at the time of his death. As I remark elsewhere, Fanny Cornforth deserves some verses and music of her own one day.

I like The Kissed Mouth, and I am pleased to have had the occasion to write it. When the original project still had some prospect of coming to fruition, I did not circulate the text much beyond the potential participants in it. When its original purpose ended, I never got around to publishing it elsewhere, until now.

I have set up The Kissed Mouth on a group of pages separate from the main body of this blog. It can be read complete, at a single go, or it can be accessed through a page that links to its individual subsections, which are also linked to one another. There are even notes and some description of the sources for the bits of Rossetti's own poetry, and the allusions to Keats and Dante, that were incorporated into the fabric of the piece. As Beatrice sings near the end: Enter here!


A Self-Serving Message Directed to Composers: If you find anything here (or elsewhere in the Poetry postings on this blog) that strikes your fancy, or that gives you the impression that I might be able to concoct a text or ten that might be of use to you in your own projects, I am easy to find. Inquiries welcome. My dreams of becoming a freelance librettist refuse to die. Being as I am an aging white male myself, I have a particular interest in working with those who are not one or more or any of those things.


Photo:    Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Beata Beatrix, Art Institute of Chicago.

The Kissed Mouth © 2013 George M. Wallace; all rights reserved.

Listening Listfully 2018

Flood piano 1937

Time is up, year is done, and once again it is time for the only remaining recurrent feature of this dusty and neglected blog, "Listening Listfully", my annual catalogue of the album/EP-length recordings released in the past twelvemonth that most particularly tickled my fancy.

I am particularly struck this year by how permeable the membranes continue to become between modes and genres, and how much I enjoy that multivalent intercursive flow. Jazz splashes on to folk, pop leaks through the interstices of whatever Classical may mean in these times, chocolate gets into peanut butter, "dogs and cats: living together!", and on and on. As Mr. Twin Sister would have it in the opening track of Salt [Number 6, infra]:

Keep on mixing, mix all people
Swirl enough and we'll all belong

This seamless web of musickes fascinates me. Historically, there has been a lot of contemporary classical/New Music at the upper ends of these lists, but this year there is no pure example in my Top 10, despite it having been a perfectly good year for such music. Nordic Affect, at Number 12, is the highest ranked straight-up example of the type - though you can make a good argument for Chris Kallmyer at Number 11, and there are elements and hints and implications sprinkled through the ostensible nonClassics above that. [I remarked eleven months ago that the entry point to John Hollenbeck's All Can Work, my eventual Number 1, "is not obviously a jazz piece at all: brass and winds sweep[ing] slow chords across chittering tuned percussion, in a manner akin to that of many a contemporary chamber group." Similar instances abound in the selections below.]

That said, all my old biases remain because heck! they work for me. The ruling biases include

  • a preference for music arranged into "albums" or their equivalent

  • a preference for buying and owning music (in the hope its creators might actually be compensated for their creations) over smash-and-grab streaming.

I feel more strongly than ever on that second point. I have a definite bias for music that can be accessed and purchased through Bandcamp, for the simple reason that it is the least intrusive middlething between listener and creator. Whenever possible, I have provided Bandcamp links to the music on this list. When there is no Bandcamp access, I have reluctantly embedded Spotify players because, while wicked, it provides ease of access to the listener. Anything Bandcampable can be bought through those Bandcamp players. For the rest, I've slipped in links to [cough cough] Amazon or, in some cases [Sweet Billy Pilgrim, Joe Garrison] to the musicians' own choice of independent distribution. However you choose to operate, I urge the rule, paraphrasing Dr. Frank N. Furter, "Don't stream it: Buy it."

The number and arrangement of the List is in constant flux. This year, I've numbered sixty choices, then added in an alphabetical listing of twenty or so more. As I said in 2016, "the List is like baseball: it could in theory go on without end." I am always one who hopes the music plays forever.

I style this blog as an index of enthusiasms. These are personal favorites, as always, rather than "bests"—although I maintain that everything here is here because it is genuinely among the best things of the past year, and not simply because I have enjoyed it. The rankings become increasingly imprecise with each step down the line.

For many of the selections on which I commented during the year via Twitter, I have embedded copies of some of those tweets. Others receive brief commentary here. Where that commentary is especially brief, it is a result of the desire to Get This Done so that it might post while it is still 2018 (at least in North America).

The same flawed, entirely subjective, and internally contradictory thing as it ever was, here begins the thirteenth edition of The List: 


1.   John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble - All Can Work

In a post in late January, I touted All Can Work as "The First Great Record of 2018," adding that it was "all but guaranteed a high-ranking spot on my personal List when the year is old and done." The prophecy is hereby fulfilled. As highly as I regard the other collections collected below, on returning to All Can Work after several months in which I had not listened to it I found that it remained my clear choice as the most roundly, fully, and firmly satisfying album of the year.


2.  Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer

The token Big Popular Success on this year's List, Dirty Computer needs no recognition from me, but will get it anyway. Funky, filthy, free; bracing and embracing. Listening just once is not really an option. I do not think I played anything else on this page quite so frequently as I did Dirty Computer over the course of the year.


3.  Aidan O’Rourke – 365, Vol. 1 [featuring Kit Downes]

In 2013, author James Robertson set himself the task of writing one story each of the 365 days of the year, each story consisting of 365 words. Scottish fiddler/composer Aidan O'Rourke set himself the task of responding to one of those stories with a new composition each day for a year. This set of 22 pieces is the first of two contemplated releases of samplings from the result, on which O'Rourke shares in the harmonisation and playing with keyboardist Kit Downes [described by O'Rourke as drawing on "jazz and Ravel and church organ" which is plenty good enough for me]. It's a labyrinthine wonderment in which to get lost.


4.  You Are Wolf – Keld

You Are Wolf is composer/singer Kerry Andrews' solo project, messing about with folk and traditional material and squeezing it out through a mesh of contemporary and avant- techniques. The first You Are Wolf album drew themes from bird life. Keld is steeped deep in bodies of water of all sorts. Gorgeous and occasionally unnerving.


5.  Gabriel Kahane – Book of Travelers

The only album on this list that received a post of its own here this past year is sitting up there at #1. What has proven to be my only other musical post of 2018 went up roughly a week earlier, when I reported my thoughts on Gabriel Kahane's live performance of the songs that eventually saw release in August as Book of Travelers. I did not do a follow-up post when the recorded version appeared, though I certainly made mention on Twitter. Rather than reproduce one of my own tweets on this one, I will defer to Alex Ross of The New Yorker


6.  Mr. Twin Sister – Salt

First of two Unqualifiedly New York City bands in our top 10. I hear this music as the current iteration of that great NYC tradition of smart, if gawky, streetwise rock, following on from the likes of the Velvet Underground and [particularly] Talking Heads. I love this stuff. Note that the ordering between them is arbitrary; could easily have been vicey versey.


7.  Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Wapentak

I have been posting about Sweet Billy Pilgrim since at least 2005, and at least two or three SBP albums would place among my favorites of this wacky 21st century. As a band, Sweet Billy Pilgrim is now a duo: Tim Elsenburg, the permanent participant, now writes, plays, and sings with Jana Carpenter, who first appeared two albums back. The instruments are fewer, and more likely to be acoustic, and the production is less esoterically prog-inclined than once it was [no dishwasher samples], but there's no harm done: the less flamboyant atmosphere serves to reemphasize that quality songwriting has always been the band's strongest suit. The harmonies are frequently evocative of Richard and Linda Thompson, and they are well suited to the wistfully morose material.


8.  Ava Luna – Moon 2

Second of two Unqualifiedly New York City bands in our top 10. Cf. Mr. Twin Sister, supra, op. cit. I hear this music as the current iteration of that great NYC tradition of smart, if gawky, streetwise rock, following on from the likes of the Velvet Underground and [particularly] Talking Heads. I love this stuff. Note that the ordering between them is arbitrary; could easily have been vicey versey. I repeat myself when under stress I repeat myself


9.  The Gloaming – Live at the NCH

The very word 'gloaming' reverberates, echoes - the gloaming, the glimmer, the glitter, the glisten, the glamour - carrying in its consonants the images of houses shuttering, gardens darkening, grass-lined rivers slipping through the shadows.

                --Joan Didion, Blue Nights

That quotation was intended to open an unfinished post about The Gloaming that has been hanging about among my drafts for nearly five years, in which time the band has released two additional albums. Now at least it won't go to waste.

The Gloaming is an Irish-American supergroup of sorts, containing Iarla Ó Lionaird, Dennis Cahill, Martin Hayes, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, and Thomas Bartlett. They work principally with Irish traditional music, buffed and polished with a combination of intensity, energy, not-quite-standard instrumentation, and random interjections of non-standard styles. Piano is, for example, not the most common of Irish traditional instruments (which tend to be more practical for the musician to carry from place to place), and Thomas Bartlett's piano is occasionally 'prepared'. 

This set, produced by Bartlett, draws on recordings from the band's annual sold-out residences at Dublin's National Concert Hall. It is a grand jam.


10.  Mary Halvorson – Code Girl


11.  Chris Kallmyer – Juniper


12.  Nordic Affect – H e (a) r


13.  Nicole Mitchell – maroon cloud 


14. Daníel Bjarnason – Collider

The latest collection of orchestral music from Daníel Bjarnason, including "Blow Bright", commissioned and premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Bjarnason is very good at this orchestral writing thing.


15. Sam Wilkes – Wilkes

      Sam Gendel & Sam Wilkes – Music for Saxofone & Bass Guitar

I first became aware of saxophonist/guitarist Sam Gendel in 2017, via his appearance on Sam Amidon's The Following Mountain. These two selections feature him with bassist Sam Wilkes, in a duo setting and as the abundantly featured player on Wilkes's own band-based release. Swirling, austere, spiritual jazz grooves from L.A.


16.  MeShell Ndegocello – Ventriloquism


17.  The Industry; Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group – Lou Harrison: Young Caesar

Lou Harrison's 1971 opera Young Caesar might well be subtitled "There and Back Again: a Roman's Holiday." It follows the teenaged Julius Caesar as he works to advance in Roman society, under the tutelage of his aunt Julia, by way of arranged marriages, public priestly service, and eventually a position as a staffer to a general. On the eve of his first battle, from which he hopes to gain a reputation for bravery and perhaps some valuable salvage, Caesar is dispatched to the court of King Nicomedes of Bithynia, to press for the delivery of some promised ships. In Bithynia, however, Caesar's diplomatic mission is temporarily forgotten as he becomes in short the boon companion and lover of the wealthy and attractive King. In the end Caesar accomplishes his mission and reluctantly parts from the Nicomedes, knowing he will likely never return, and sails again for Rome. It is a tale of love, duty, power, sacrifice, regret, and freedom: in other words, perfect for opera.

In June, 2017, the Los Angeles Philharmonic staged a single, revelatory performance of Young Caesar, in an edition and production devised by Yuval Sharon and The Industry, preserved in this live recording. The opera had never had a really successful performance previously, often as not because of backers getting cold feet over the controversial (read: overtly gay) nature of the work and its themes. Earlier versions of the libretto are also reputed to have been dramatically or structurally turgid. The Industry/LA Phil version proved eminently performable, musically and dramatically, confirming Young Caesar as a major 20th century American opera.

For all the serious matters on its agenda, Young Caesar is also shot through with humor, particularly in the person of Bruce Vilanch as the narrator, and in the production's embrace of florid gestures toward camp, particularly in the "eroticon" staged for Caesar by his Bithynian host - complete with flying phalloi, which are not in evidence on the recording. What will be plainly evident to listeners is the marvelous invention of Lou Harrison's score, and particularly his incorporation of Asian percussion and gamelan tunings to contrast staid Establishment Rome with exotic, intoxicating Bithynia. 


18.  Jon Hassell – Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Vol. 1)

The first new Jon Hassell release in nearly a decade, collecting recent exemplars of the diverse global paths he has trod over the decades.


19.  Neneh Cherry – Broken Politics


20.  Field Music – Open Here


21.  Thomas Bartlett & Nico Muhly – Peter Pears: Balinese Ceremonial Music

The grain of sand in the pearl here is a set of three dual piano transcriptions of Balinese gamelan music by Colin McPhee, which he completed and played with Benjamin Britten when both were expatriates in Brooklyn circa 1941. Composer Nico Muhly and singer-songwriter/producer Thomas Bartlett [Doveman] play the McPhee pieces,as well as nine other songs musically and harmonically inspired by them. As a practical matter, this is three-quarters of a Doveman album in all but name, and welcome for that.


22.  Joe Garrison – The Broken Jar

23.  Gavin Gamboa – 1685: Shadow Owes Its Birth to Light

        Gavin Gamboa – Urgency Apparatus

        Gavin Gamboa – Lipolysis


24.  Anthony Roth Costanzo – ARC


25.  Steve Reich – Pulse / Quartet


26.  Kadhja Bonet – Childqueen

Ambitious orchestral singer-songwriterness, with echoes of Minnie Ripperton and more.


 27.  Ambrose Akinmusire – Origami Harvest

Genre defiance of the best kind, combining Akinmusire's jazz trumpet and small jazz group with the Mivos Quartet and rapper Kool A.D. This was a late and recent discovery, and might well have wound up higher on the list with a few more listens. 


28.  Foresteppe – Maeta

Samples derived from the forest and steppes of Siberia, abstracted and diffused and etherealized.


29.  Donny McCaslin – Blow.

From Bowie's last sax player. Rock-leaning New York jazz, to be played loud.


30.  Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth

Kamasi and friends doing what they do. Pssst: Some of the most interesting material is on the hidden third disc.


31.  Elvis Costello – Look Now

A very good mature period Costello album, with strong ties back to his Burt Bacharach collaboration, Painted from Memory.


32.  Leverage Models – Whites

Synthpop agitprop, kicking paradigms and taking names.


33.  Richard Swift – The Hex

Final release of the late Richard Swift. Sad pop made sadder by his loss.


34.  Scott Worthington – Orbit

A little bit Wandelweiser, a little bit drone.


35.  Psychic Temple (feat. Cherry Glazerr) – Houses of the Holy Vol. 1

First in a promised series of lightning speed collaborative recordings between Psychic Temple (Chris Schlarb) and a range of other bands. Just a shade darker and more savory than my tweet might suggest.


36.  The Lazy Lies – Less Talk More Action

Everything old is new again Brit Invasion-styled pop tunes, straight out of Barcelona.


37.  Bettye LaVette – Things Have Changed


38.  Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp – Sauvages Formes

A jazzlike orchestra, with strings, incorporating plenty of world music and club beats. 


 39.  Niechęć – Live at Jazz Club Hipnoza

Prog-Jazz from Poland. These live versions are enhanced in some cases by the presence of a King Crimson-emulating cello.


40.  Hilja – Cucina Povera

Sounds like Iceland – spaces expanding into spaces, wind strewn and cinder blown – but it's Finno-Glaswegian. Layered voice, field recordings, subtilectronica, and a relationship to language somewhere between Cocteau Twins and Sigur Ros: a mystic sophistic blend.


41.  BeachglassSunroom Sanctuary

Something in a tasty psychfolk vein, from Montreal.


42.  Aaron Martin – Touch Dissolves

Atmospheres and moonbeams.


43. My Brightest Diamond – A Million and One

Shara Nova, now with 32% more beats and danceability.


44. Philip Glass – Symphony No. 11

Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass Glass. Most everything he has learned about orchestration over the years - which is a great deal - is on display here. Symphony No. 12 ["Lodger"] premieres January 2019 in Los Angeles.


45. LeStrange Viols – Æternum - Music of the Elizabethan Avant Garde from Add. MS 31390

Viols! Elizabethan repertoire! What more do you need to know?


46. Clarice Jensen – For This From That Will Be Filled

Cello and electronics and drones, oh my.


47. International Contemporary Ensemble – Aequa

A survey of recent works by Iceland's Anna Þorvaldsdóttir.


48. Angelique Kidjo – Remain in Light

Angelique Kidjo re-appropriates Talking Heads' Remain in Light for Africa, to excellent effect.


49. Duo Odeon – Specter: The Music of George Antheil

Although he was in fact American, I persist in thinking of George Antheil as French, largely because he composed the score to Fernand Leger's 1924 Dada film "Ballet Mécanique". I learned of my error when I tweeted about this recording. Although I got his Frenchness wrong, I otherwise stand by my assessment of Antheil's fine music.


50. Marc Mellits; New Music Detroit – Smoke

Groovy Fun with Minimalism. 


51. Astronauts, etc. – Living in Symbol

Sophisto bedroom pop from Oakland. 


52. Tammy Evans Yonce – Dreams Grow Like Slow Ice

New music for solo flute, much of it utilizing the glissando headjoint. 


53. Simon Jermyn + Ben Goldberg – Silence

A meditative jazz excursion.


54. Olden Yolk – Olden Yolk

Freak folk meets Belle & Sebastian? I dunno, but I like it.


55. Olivia Chaney – Shelter

Luxe contemporary folk, from a zone somewhere between June Tabor and Laura Marling, with a surprise cameo appearance by Henry Purcell. Arranged and produced with unfailing subtlety by Thomas Bartlett.

56. Subtle Degrees – A Dance That Empties

Abstract and expansive new music from the duo of tenor saxophonist Travis Laplante [Battle Trance] and percussionist Gerald Cleaver.


57. Sergey Akhunov – Victor Hugo’s Blank Page

A survey of new and previously released compositions from the Russian composer. 


58. The Hands Free – The Hands Free


59.The Nouveau Classical Project – Currents

New York based contemporary quintet offers up new compositions from David Bird, Olga Bell, and [my personal favorite here] Isaac Schankler.


60. Marc Ribot – Songs of Resistance 1942 – 2018

I am conflicted about this set, which likely accounts for it landing way down here at Number 60 while having induced from me a longer Twitter thread than anything else on the card.



Les mentions d'honneur. Chevaliers de l'ordre alphabétique:

Aizuri Quartet – Blueprinting [rising contemporary music string quartet with chops so sharp you may cut yourself just by listening]

Alex Crispin – Open Submission  [lovely ambient ambiences]

Arooj Aftab – Siren Islands [woven drones and atmospheres of mystery]

Baeilou – Inside Under EP [Singing cellist draws musical tools and styles from a list at least as long as your arm; hoping to hear more from her, soon.] 

Brad Mehldau – After Bach [Mehldau plays Bach, and constructs Bach-like structures of his own, to fine effect]

Crash Ensemble, et al. – Andrew Hamilton: Music for People 

Eiko Ishibashi – The Dream My Bones Dream [uncategorizable really I can't even]

Etienne Jaumet – 8 Regards Obliques [clubland takes on classic jazz tunes]

Jacob Greenberg – Hanging Gardens [exploring the connective tissue between Debussy and Schoenberg]

John Coltrane – Both Directions at Once [1963] [the "lost" album]

John Lindaman – Let the Power Fall Again [A revisitation/recreation of the core 1981 Frippertronics recordings, with the sort of rigor and exploratory respect typically reserved for, say, the Bach cello suites.]

Mammal Hands – Becoming EP [contains sweetly melanchoolic jazz-like substances]

[Medeski, Martin & Wood w/ Alarm Will Sound – Omnisphere [a live collaboration between the brainy witty jazz trio and the brainy witty new music orchestra; features a super rendering of Caleb Burhans' "o ye of little faith (do you know where your children are)"]

Padma Newsome – The Vanity of trees [songs from the wood]

 [Robbie Lee and Mary Halvorson – Seed Triangular [Two fine musicians exploring and improvising on instruments old and obscure to the point of being nigh hypothetical.]

St. Vincent –  MassEducation [stripped down piano versions, with Thomas Bartlett, of the songs from Masseduction]

Sunda Arc – Flicker [an EP of lushly twitchy electronica from a member of Mammal Hands]

The Necks – Body [goes quite satisfyingly to 11 for a bit, but ultimately thinks better of it]

The Righteous Yeah – Goodbye [From a subidentity of New Zealand guitarist Michael Morley, crepuscular symphonic loops somewhat in the vein of William Basinski]

The Righteous Yeah – Unknown Album [likewise]

Yoko Ono – Warzone [at 85, the artist revisits her music, including taking her own run at "Imagine"; produced by Thomas Bartlett]

Zeal and Ardour – Stranger Fruit [black metal field hollers, not because they are easy but because they are hard]


Lagniappe: favorite song of 2018 not on an album that made it on to the List.





I know this much is true

I know this much is true
according to

reports of eyewitnesses to reports from the scene

or presumed friends of the presumed eyewitnesses

not so much friends really
as acquaintances   
well-informed former acquaintances
who to be honest don't always follow them that closely
maybe half a dozen of those

two sources familiar with articles about the folks they heard had had the conversation

the gall bladder of a small pigeon,
distended and porpoise-shaped
with glints of mica

the usual suspects
the usual guilty parties
the ostensibly innocent parties
the lawyer of their lawyers’ lawyers
or a spokesperson for the aforesaid

wasn't it you I heard it from

a persistent patch of lint in the trap
seemingly burning but yet unconsumed
and still there each time I look

fox news, or maybe hedgehog news

three aides who later sought first aid after smacking heads as they were all three attempting to listen at one time at the relevant keyhole

a senior white horse souse

yo mama
mine as well

that little voice
you know the one yeah that one

from out the patch of lint

yeah that one



The creatures that dwell in the margins of maps
are a destination in themselves
sought after sometime captured in glimpses
in sidelong nets and backhanded pitfalls
by trickery on reflection
via deception
or inveiglement

wishes are horses
horses are unicorns
manatees mermaids
rumors immaculate proof

what might one find
beneath the sargassum
what might one find
living its life
adrift on a plastic subcontinent

here there be Maps
of where here is
of where there was
here there be Maps
of what you will

will what you will make of it
seek and pursue
rise as you will or can
along the lifting and plastic lines of the compass rose

North from Lodi, Early December

All morning on the Interstate through fog
past cattle bathed in fog and maybe goats
recruited to crop down the marginal grass
of tracts of Interstate-adjacent homes

one drives all morning on the Interstate
past fog-blest cattle fog-bathed baby goats
past crops at dawn, distrait fog-margined grass
Those homes
This fog
The interstate
That grass

The speed and turbulence of all that drives
the Interstate sweeps all the roadbed clear
of fog. The fog holds off a bit, askance,
the driver's glance still barred beyond the marge.

The pavement seems so smooth, as smooth
As suede as fleece as milk as sheep as goats,
and on each side secreted by that fog
the grass-green grasses grow beneath the stock.

The grass grows green-o, rushing rushers rush
and still the fog sifts, self-absorbed and still

and mops the moist and misted eye that drives
all morning on the Interstate through fog.

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble:
All Can Work

All can work

Hello, friend.

Have you received the good news? The news that the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble's All Can Work is the First Great Record of 2018?

I wrote as much on Twitter, don't you know, which is the truest of tokens of truth.

All Can Work releases today [January 26] via New Amsterdam Records, which is a perfect place for it, being as the album is in part a sly, gentle slap in the face to genre. It is a fundamentally fine jazz record that, often as not, sounds nothing like a "jazz record." (New Amsterdam, while commonly pegged as specializing in something such as "contemporaryAltNewClassical", eschews such labels and has a solid history of supporting releases from or adjacent to the "jazz" corner of the galaxy, e.g., Darcy James Argue's Secret Society and exotic creatures such as Will Mason Ensemble and Battle Trance.)

John Hollenbeck is a profluent drummer and composer, collaborating far and wide with groups both large and smaller. This is his third release with his own eponymous big band. All Can Work displays the core virtues that make a “great record”: it gives pleasure, it offers variety and surprise, it rewards repeat listening, and it is a satisfying whole, most particularly enjoyable when consumed, in sequence, as such. Those same virtues inform well-crafted live performances, in any genre, and All Can Work performed straight through would be a super solid show.

The curtain-raising "lud" is not obviously a jazz piece at all: brass and winds sweep slow chords across chittering tuned percussion, in a manner akin to that of many a contemporary chamber group. It serves to clear the aural palate nicely, in preparation for the first major course.

“All Can Work” is tribute and memorial to Laurie Frink—trumpeter, educator and mentor to many another player, and longtime Hollenbeck collaborator and band member—who died of cancer in 2013. It is a song, an excursive setting of words drawn from Frink's email messages to Hollenbeck, a sketch of a cherished friend and of a musician's love for her craft and companions (and theirs for her). Theo Bleckmann is the singer, guilelessly weaving through biography, joy, fear, surprise, speculatiove philosophy and more, to reach a simple and affecting farewell:



I will miss you all and especially the music

There follow two non-Hollenbeck compositions with which Hollenbeck has his way as arranger/reinventor. “Elf” takes its title and raw musical material from a Billy Strayhorn piece, subsequently retooled through Duke Ellington as “Isfahan.” Themes that are straightforward in most prior versions are here smeared, reshaped and relished as a tumbling burble topped with high woodwind ululations.

Kenny Wheeler's “Heyoke” was originally a quartet piece [on Gnu High (ECM 1976), with Wheeler, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette], but it thrives in its new large-band manifestation. The original begins with an enticing melody, stated by Wheeler on flugelhorn and then passed and played with around the group for roughly ten minutes; there is a pause for breath, then an extended, more urgent and even more freely improvisatory segment of the same length, subsiding in roughly its last 45 seconds to a sort of clockwork tick-tock call and response motif. Hollenbeck’s re-version starts with that clockwork, extending and inflating it for more than five minutes before the lyrical “Heyoke” melody is allowed to surface, to shine a bit, and then to subside back into the primordial broth, adrift over some mellifluous Theo Bleckmann vocalise.

Three Hollenbeck originals follow. “this kiss”, per the composer, is drawn from Romeo and Juliet, foregrounding the exuberance of the Young Love plot, with the Violence and Death plot serving as a sort of lurking descant. In “from trees”, the preposition in the title is the important bit: the piece moves steadily away from forested things into a chiaroscuro-noir urban nightscape, easing through a slippery semi-waltz on its way to a chugging slow boogie of an ending. [Hollenbeck’s liner notes—which are interesting enough to warrant obtaining a physical copy in order to read them, but which I had not looked at before writing that sentence—reveal the inspiration for the piece to be the paintings of Piet Mondrian, and particularly the path from his early studies of trees to the grid paintings for which he is best known, in particular the late “Broadway Boogie Woogie”.]

Theo Bleckmann returns to words in “Long Swing Dream”, speaking rather than singing an extended excerpt from the diaries of Cary Grant, in which the actor describes and endorses his experiences with LSD, while the band in its lowest registers pulses beneath.

For an encore? A rousing and savory arrangement of Kraftwerk’s “The Model”, shimmying naughtily like a Weimar a-go-go show.

The year is new and the remaining months hold who knows what surprises musically, but All Can Work is all but guaranteed a high-ranking spot on my personal List when the year is old and done. I have been returning to it regularly for weeks now, and custom has thus far failed to stale its infinite variety. Definitely a keeper, recommended without hesitation for any with ears to hear it.

All Can Work releases via New Amsterdam Records on January 26, 2018. This post is based on recurrent listening to a review CD received from the label, but the blogger has since put his money where his post is by purchasing a digital copy.

Songs of a Railwayfarer:
Gabriel Kahane, 8980: Book of Travelers
Los Angeles 20 Jan 2018

Gabriel Kahane - Little Love [from 8980 Book of Travelers]

On the morning following the Presidential election in November, 2016, Gabriel Kahane elected to board a train and to travel the United States, talking with those he met. He traveled for thirteen days and covered, he says, 8980 miles, conversing in dining cars, in observation cars, on station platforms, and returning with the material for the songs that make up 8980: Book of Travelers. A recording is rumored to be coming some time this year. The performance version premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of the BAM Next Wave Festival in November, 2017. On February 2, it will be presented at the University of Michigan. Last night, on the anniversary of the Inauguration that followed from the election that birthed it, Book of Travelers came to Los Angeles and the Theatre at Ace Hotel.

8980: Book of Travelers is, like The Ambassador before it, a collection of songs on a theme. It is a contemporary cousin to the mid 1970s work of Randy Newman (Sail AwayGood Old Boys, and Little Criminals) and of Joni Mitchell. It is a sort of counter-Hejira: where Joni Mitchell emphasizes travel as a means of escape, an active effort to become lost, Gabriel Kahane approaches it as a mode of inquiry, an effort to find something or other (cf. Paul Simon's "America"). In that, Book of Travelers connects with the tradition of writers taking to the road to find where it might lead, or what questions it might answer, as in Steinbeck's Travels With Charley or, in an entirely different vein, the latter portions of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Kahane's chosen musical style dials back somewhat the American Songbook grab-bag of Newman (and of The Ambassador) and in favor of accenting the stratum of art song that grounded his short-story-esque song cycle The Fiction Issue.

The musical forces and staging for 8980:Book of Travelers are less elaborate than for The Ambassador: just a grand piano and an angled ribbon of four projection screens behind. An autoharp was discretely embedded inside the piano, and used with similar discretion. Looping pedals and a vocal processor were used for a brief segment that evoked simultaneously Laurie Anderson and the helium-voiced sociopathic toon in Roger Rabbit. For the most part, Kahane simply sat, played and sang, with occasional brief remarks on the particular travelers from whom a song was born. 

I, for one, loved it:

Whether questions were answered or not on the singer's journey is uncertain. It is clear that, for Gabriel Kahane, the trip reaffirmed that the blending and exchange of human voices, whether in conversation or in song, is something of a good in itself, and that each of those voices is uniquely derived from a long and personal history. Where are we, as a nation? How did we get here? What can we or should we do, now that we are here? Book of Travelers does not presume to answer that sort of question, other than to suggest that it is through that exchange of voices, and in the understanding of one another's individual and overlayering histories, that any route to a method for the pursuit of an approach to such answers may be descried.

Because the Book of Travelers songs have, for the most part, not yet been released in a recorded version, most of us in the room were hearing them for the first time last night. Gabriel Kahane writes very well for his own voice, so that most of his words could be grasped on the fly. Still, there is no doubt that repeated listening will yield increasing returns. There is every reason to think that this Fool will be unable to resist writing about it again, if only by an amendment to this post, whenever a recording eventually enters the station.

In the meantime, two of these songs were sent out into the world in the latter part of 2017: "Little Love" and "November." "November" literally picks up where the concluding song on The Ambassador, "Union Station", left off, referencing "that last train from L.A." It begins in direct address to the listener with the words, "When last we spoke...", pointing toward the one-to-one conversations that are at the center of Book of Travelers. I had surmised, from this circumstantial evidence, that "November" would be the first song in the Book. I surmised incorrectly: it proved in performance to be the last song in the series. "Little Love" is a delicious little earworm of a song, performed straightforward as you please in concert without any projections or dramatic lighting, on the theme of growing fondly old together. I have previously expressed my particular fondness for "Little Love" on Twitter:

Both "Little Love" and "November" are currently accessible here:

Listening Listfully 2017


 Time is up, year is done.

July 3 of 2018 will mark the ostensible 15th Anniversary of this blog. There were giants in those days, and I stared enviously up at their scabby brilliant knees. Who knows what I may push myself to do with this dear weary site in the coming year. I suspect there will be more poetry; I hope there will be something more frequently appealing as well.

So here we are again with "Listening Listfully", my catalogue of the album/EP-length recordings released in the past twelvemonth that most particularly tickled my fancy. Old school preferences underlie the thing: a preference for music arranged into "albums" or their equivalent, and a preference for buying and owning said music (in the hope its creators might actually be compensated for their creations) over smash-and-grab streaming. A random quantity of numbered choices in the mid-forties this year, followed by an unquantified miscellany because, as I said in 2016, "the List is like baseball: it could in theory go on without end."

I style this blog as an index of enthusiasms. These are personal favorites, as always, rather than "bests"—although I maintain that everything here is here because it is genuinely among the best things of the past year, and not simply because I have enjoyed it. The rankings become increasingly imprecise with each step down the line. I have provided commentary, of sorts, for the first fifteen on the list; it is a random stopping point, driven mostly by a desire to post this while it is still 2017 (at least in North America). There are inevitably many recordings of quality omitted, simply because I have yet to listen to them.

Flawed, entirely subjective, and internally contradictory as always, here begins the twelfth edition of The List: 


1.    Michael Vincent Waller - Trajectories

This is a beautiful recording. To hear it gives pleasure. Great, if quiet, pleasure. This music engages the lived and living world, and particularly the acts of receiving that world through the senses and of sifting through it in the mind, in dreams, or, if one insists, in the soul, and finds the essentials of that world to be, if only impurely, good and deserving of the engagement, and the engagement good and deserving of being shared. This is hardly the only task that music, or most any art, can choose to take on itself—this List, in any given year, is something of a demonstration of how many different things music can attempt to "do", including choosing to do nearly nothing—but it is a task that has always appealed to this particular listener. When I wrote about Michael Vincent Waller's first major collection, 2015's The South Shore, I invoked Baudelaire's phrase: luxe, calme et volupté. That still fits.

This collection focuses principally on works for solo piano, plus a pair of mid-length pieces for piano with cello. The pianist is R. Andrew Lee, best known for his recordings of adventurous minimalism and composers of Wanderweiser group. on the Irritable Hedgehog label. The cellist is Seth Parker Woods. The style and sensibility of the music is Waller's own, but it is easily associated with pianistic forebears such as Erik Satie (in particular), Harold Budd, and John Cage's "In a Landscape", with a dash of Gavin Bryars' string writing. Although it is not in general circulation (it was shared with supporters of one of his commissioning projects) Andy Lee has recorded a delicious collection of Satie and Satie-influenced piano, and that portion of his repertoire serves him well here. 

At the time of release, the composer and players presented a handful of live performances, including one I was able to attend in Santa Monica. The balding back side of my head is, blessedly, out of frame in this video of "Lines" from that set:


2.    Sam Amidon - The Following Mountain

In the opening moments of "Ghosts", Sam Amidon bellows "I'm all out of ideas!" He is mistaken. His work has been a fixture of this list for nigh on a decade now, and the ideas never stop. Built largely on gleanings from a single long guardedly improvisational recording session, the album is a slurry combining the folk, trad, banjo, fiddle, and shape note material one expects with Sam's longstanding interest in new music and in experimental and avant corners of jazz, with drummer Milford Graves as emissary and conduit. Sam Gendel [#6, below] and his saxophone bring additional savor. At this time, my personal favorite among Sam's albums, and a good précis of what makes all of them so rewarding.


3.    Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Bjarnason - Recurrence

The best full-orchestra album of 2017. Accept no substitutes. Composer Daníel Bjarnason conducts works by the current generation of Icelandic composers, including his own darkly surging "Emergence". (There is a superb version of that piece on his Bedroom Community debut, . This new version is better.)  Bjarnason co-curated (with Esa-Pekka Salonen) the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Reykjavik Festival in spring 2017, and most of these pieces turned up on one program or another. If any doubt remained, that Festival and this recording serve as compelling testimony to the creative variety and strength of Icelandic music at this time.

[Both Daníel Bjarnason and Anna Thorvaldsdottír also have pieces on Los Angeles Percussion Quartet's Beyond, #8 below.]


4.    Miles Mosley - Uprising

Miles Mosley plays bass in Kamasi Washington's band, and much of this material comes out of the West Coast Get Down sessions that eventually resulted in Washington's epic Coltranesque epic, The Epic. In Washington's band, Mosley does most everything one can with an upright bass: plucking, bending, bowing, and more. Rather than a jazz-jazz album, Uprising is a floor-shaking contemporary soul/R&B session. Mosley is an appealing singer, on the lines of Stevie Wonder's grittier side. Just when you wonder where all the bass is, you realize that what you may have thought was electric guitar, including the Hendrixy solos, is the bass. Plenty of bottom here, in every sense. [More West Coast Get Down-adjacent music appears below, from Kamasi Washington (#9) and Natasha Agrama (#11).]


5.    Slowdive - Slowdive

 I rediscovered a hitherto unrecalled fondness for shoegaze this year. This, the first new Slowdive album in 22 years, sealed the deal. Bathe in it.


6.    Sam Gendel - 4444

and Sam Gendel - HAT TRICK

and Sam Gendel - Double Expression

Sam Gendel, largely on saxophone, is an important contributor to Sam Amidon's The Following Mountain [#2, above]. On 4444, his first album under his own name (largely featuring his trio previously recorded under the name of Inga), largely foregoes saxophone in favor of lithe, swirling, bossa nova flavored guitar songs. It remakes any space quite attractively while it is playing, and the occasional gesture toward sociopolitical concerns led me to characterize it on Twitter as "José González, with thorns".

The vocal-free HAT TRICK and Double Expression return the saxophone to the foreground. The former is a three-track EP of Gendel solo improvisations, with loops and electronics, very much in the vein of Jon Hassell; the latter is nearly two and a half hours of material recorded live, in duo and trio formats, on a single afternoon in an apartment and on the sidewalks of L.A.'s Silver Lake neighborhood. In all of these settings, Gendel's groove is true.

[Although he does not, I believe, appear on Aromanticism (#10 below), Sam Gendel also plays in Moses Sumney's touring band.]


7.    Aaron Roche - HaHa HuHu

Recommended, for recondite strangeness, for grit & sparkling lint, for indwelling beauties.


8.    Los Angeles Percussion Quartet - Beyond

There is a good argument to be made that the U.S. is currently in something of a Golden Age of Percussion Ensembles. In composition and in performance, the music on this two-disc set is roughly as good as contemporary percussion music gets. Chris Cerrone's "Memory Palace" never fails to move me as a solo piece, and this rearrangement for quartet is my favorite version yet. Andrew McIntosh's disc-long "I Hold the Lion's Paw" is an quietly immersive amble through a vivid series of interior landscapes, a trip unto itself. I strongly suspect that I will look back someday and decide I have underrated Beyond in this ranking.


9.    Kamasi Washington - Harmony of Difference

A six-part jazz suite with Washington and band building and trading themes and solos, the whole structure bursting to accumulated glory in its final long segment. Supremely satisfying.


10.    Moses Sumney - Aromanticism

Moses Sumney's falsetto. Draperies of diaphanous sound. Love and sex and happiness and their alternatives, stewed, steamed, and seasoned in yearning. Harp. Did I mention that falsetto?


11.    Natasha Agrama - The Heart of Infinite Change

Although Natasha Agrama has West Coast Get Down connections,  and has sung with Kamasi Washington's band, there is no sign of Miles Mosley (#4 above) on bass. Instead, one must make do with Thundercat or with the singer's stepfather, Stanley Clarke. The bass chair nicely signifies the heady mix of youth and experience on this record. The other old lion on hand, in his final session, is the late George Duke. A beautifully spare version of "In a Sentimental Mood," with just Clarke and Duke and an occasional fingersnap for accompaniment, is the second best thing here. Best is a reworking of Joni Mitchell's reworking of Charles Mingus's homage to Lester Young, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," expanded into a tribute to the song's entire line descent, its focus shifting from New York to Los Angeles, to dazzling effect.


12.    The Knells - Knells II

 Progressive rock. Medieval polyphony. Two great tastes that continue to go great together in the hands of Andrew McKenna Lee and band. Really, you should try this.


13.    Donny McCaslin - Beyond Now 

David Bowie played saxophone himself in the early part of his career. Donny McCaslin has the distinction of being Bowie's last sax player, as part of the jazz-based band assembled for Blackstar. McCaslin's latest with his own longtime band includes two Bowie-Eno covers: "A Small Plot of Land" from Outside and a gripping and granitic version of "Warszawa" from Low, the latter seemingly filtered through the lens of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman." The blowing and swinging and escalating choruses on the remainder of the album are also of top blowing and swinging quality.


14.    The Mynabirds - BE HERE NOW

Laura Burhenn, rocking the #Resistance. Quite aside from its politics, this album satisfies in ways one used to be able almost to take for granted in American Rock Records.


15.    Psychic Temple - IV

Another waking dream narrative of Southern California musics. Chris Schlarb is a wizard at this.


Further in the way of item by item commentary affiant sayeth not, at this point in time. Affiant reserves the right perhaps to return and scribble post hoc commentary on some or all of the entrants below, all of which are worthy of your attention.


16.    R. Stevie Moore & Jason Falkner - Make It Be


17.    World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda


18.    Nadia Sirota - Tesselatum


19.    ensemble, et al. - The Slow Reveal


20.    The National - Sleep Well Beast


21.    Jean-Michel Blais & CFCF - Cascades


22.    Jasper String Quartet - Unbound


23.    Del Sol String Quartet - Dark Queen Mantra


24.    Scott Wollschleger: Soft Aberration


25.    The Tape Disaster - Oh! Myelin!


26.    Qasim Naqvi - FILM



27.    Theo Bleckmann - Elegy



 28.    Amir ElSaffar/Rivers of Sound - Not Two


29.    Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Courtenay Budd - David Del Tredici: Child Alice


30.    William Basinski - A Shadow in Time


31.    Kovtun - Infernal


32.    Choral Arts Initiative - How To Go On: Choral Music of Dale Trumbore


33.    Casey Dienel - Imitation of a Woman to Love


34.    The Dan Ryan - Guidance


35.    Denny Zeitlin & George Marsh - Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations


36.    Sufjan Stevens/Nico Muhly/Bryce Dessner/James McAlister - Planetarium


37.    Liew Niyomkarn - Nº 3


38.    Conrad Winslow: The Perfect Nothing Catalog


 39.    Daniel Corral: Refractions


40.    Flower Crown - GLOW 


41.    Herod - Herod Plays Kraftwerk


 42.    Crash Ensemble - Ghosts



Miscellaneous extras: 

First, a selection of electronics, drones, and declamations, with a cover photo by ... me.

Gavin Gamboa - La Bibliothèque Fantastique


Next, the late Julius Eastman, whose rediscovery continues apace, in a 1974 live performance by himself with S.E.M. Ensemble, and in a hotchachacha 2017 cover version by Horse Lords.

 Julius Eastman: Joy Boy


Horse Lords - Julius Eastman: Stay On It [from Horse Lords' Mixtape IV]


 Some more Brazilians (to go with #25 and #31 above).

 Dialeto - Bartok in Rock

Devilish Dear - These Sunny Days

 Juna - Marina Goes to the Moon


Some single-piece [i.e., non-album release] new music in the somewhat classical vein.

Jonathan Morgan - Nick Norton: Elegy II

Los Angeles Percussion Quartet - Matt McBane: For Triangles


A handful of further jazz-related choices.

Morgan Guerin - The Saga II

 Dwight Trible - Inspirations

 DeJohnette, Grenadier, Medeski, Scofield - Hudson


And no musical year can end well without a pair of Gabriel Kahane releases: three solo piano pieces, featuring Timo Andres, and two new songs.


With that, this blogger wishes for you all a fine and musical 2018. As the sage says, things can only get better.



The Short Line

The short line-

Old friends
What ends

Do we work toward?

Who is on board.

May need to be made
But who is repaid?

Who is

Whose words
Do we twist?

And who's ignored?
Let's postulate

Amid the mists
That life is hard

The times suggest
There's no reward

And young things end
As old, friends

The Bridal Veil Falls in Autumn

The Bridal Veil Falls in Autumn

Wick’d by wisps of air
Or spread akimbo
By the press of wind
Across the faceted cliff face
Skewed in descent
The creek-rush waters
Fall as water falls
That has no choice

They are fewer now –
Those still, infinitous drops that drop en masse
From the precipitating lip –
Than they were in spring
Fewer yes but clearer to the eyes
Of we who tip our sockets up to see

In places such as this it seems
We are not out of Eden yet
Yet we are
At all times walking
Toward Eden’s sole and outbound gate

Wickèd the heirs
Of whate’er has made
Such a space out of space
Waking in error
Where an angelic blade
Keeps that portal in place

We will reach it too, too soon
But likely not tomorrow

Look up and up and
Drink the air before you
Walk back down the tarmacked trace
To your lot

And still the falls
fall in the fall
never still
though not at their full
they never falter
Still the falls
fall for free
for all
in their fall
they never alter

Meantime the air drinks deep
From vaporizing waters
Watched by other fallen folk
Who stand and point and press
Until they too withdraw


© 2017 George M. Wallace; all rights reserved.

Photo by the blogger.

Steal Away, Dandy (song)

Steal away dandy

A plate of cold deviled eggs looking back at me
like that old devil moon.
And I hold a beveled glass full of Beaujolais
and a runcible spoon.
    An ice cold Grüner
    In a frosted schooner
Is your potation of choice on this island Earth
where we all stand marooned.

    When the stereo blasts “O Fortuna”,
    It's a wonder you didn't leave sooner:
    Steal away, Dandy,
    Don't let those French doors hit you too hard.

At the end of the drive there's an Uber-mensch
with a smile and a lift.
As he hands you an ale and an allen wrench,
it seems a natural gift.
    Ill at ease with the notion
    Of Eternal Devotion,
With a gesture you're moving at speed to the beach
As a swallow is swift.

    Still the stereo blasts “O Fortuna”,
    Bottles empty and I should have seen sooner:
    Steal away, Dandy,
    Don't let those French doors hit you too hard.

I've heard Arnold once heard it, and Sophocles,
both long withdrawn from the world.
That sound you don’t catch catches you:
a kaleidoscope tumbling curl.
    There is one wave in seven
    Lofting hell-bent to heaven.
Washed by sea wrack and sand and you envy the grit
In the heart of the pearl

    You wonder what Life means to teach you
    When the rescue lines cannot  quite  reach you:
    Steal away, Dandy,
    Adrift a few yards too far from the shore.

(Hey now hey now:
don't dream it's Dover….)


Note: The attentive reader might well deduce that this set of verses is meant as a pastiche/homage to the lyrics of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, aka Steely Dan. And that attentive reader would be entirely correct. With the recent passing of Walter Becker, I found myself drawn to listen to his first solo record, 11 Tracks of Whack (1994), and realizing just how much of the Steely Dan sound should properly be credited to him. I also, at some point, discovered that the first two lines of this thing had formulated in my mind. So I set to work to write a full set of lyrics "in the style", and here they are. There is a melody to all this that exists in my head, drawing from the lope of "Home at Last" with a dollop of Fleetwood Mac's "Hypnotized".  Should we ever meet, I will venture to sing it, unaccompanied, but will forebear for a price.



An emptied tent in an open field
On a slanting brushland
beyond the dunes
This is my heart
This is my heart

A peg wrenched loose by a skewing pole
And a wrinkled door flap
flotsamed by gusts
This is my heart
This is my heart

Dust cast off crusts and a shredded rug
Of a homely pattern
shunted aside
This is my heart
This is my heart

A bowl with a dried on smear of broth
And no table under
no spoon nearby
This is my heart
This is my heart

Look at this: spare and indelicate
An envelope fabricked
of yearning air
Enter my heart
Enter my heart

An emptied tent in an open field
Vacancy draped atop
unyielding earth
This is my heart
Enter my heart

Empty   my heart


© 2017 George M. Wallace; all rights reserved.

Photo by the blogger.




Removing the mirror leaves two spaces empty:
The space before, a space behind,
And yet a third: the space between
What is seen and what is there to be seen.

Behind the wall that stood behind the mirror
Another absent mirror stands implied.

Before the wall that stands disclosed
Where once a mirror tossed transverted vistas
Back to its observer in its obverse world
Essay it as you saw once in a film:
Extend a gloved hand or hesitant finger
To probe through absences of images of what was where to find a way to there
By a push and a press
At the melting emptiness
With palms and inner knuckles then a wrist
A sleeve an elbow soon enough a shoulder and
In one membranous pop perhaps yourself.

Be still as limpid sheer reflective water
Be sure as you are still as you approach
The tensing surface of that vacancy
In transit toward
Another side an other side aside
Astride a sliding shine of faceted glass
And as
Silvered glass may pass for mercury
Hermetic ceilings lower in suspense
A wingèd heel extends its healing wing
And then is flown.
Persistent vision’s memory insists
Though silvered glass might pass that you will not.

The mirror would not yield if it was there
Its emptied place yields less
The vacant wall yields least of all


© 2017 George M. Wallace; all rights reserved.

Photo by the blogger.



A lens of air and vapor held in air
shaped by air
suspended in air
Perceived from earth by way of light
through air
through albumen

through surging ions and shifting envelopes
Earth and æther
Auroral order overboard
A cloud

Wand'ring lonely
An unhoused king of importunate space
Faded finery
Adherent arcing tortoise carapace

Wing of swift, wing of swallow
Your shining copper shield, Achille
Nothing strikes right
In this striking light

A lens of air and vapor
held in air
Perceived from earth by way of light
through surging ions
Earth and æther
Swiftly swallowed

A strike a stripe
a lens
all blends


© 2017 George M. Wallace; all rights reserved.

Photo [we know: not in fact a lenticular cloud] by the blogger.