Personae: About the Program

Ezra Pound’s poetic voice of the 20th century was important in the development of poetry in the modernist movement. Connected to musicians, composers, and artists of the early 20th century, Pound also wrote musical compositions of his own. In Pound’s music, musical realizations of poetic form, rhythm, and pacing permeate throughout.

Pound’s choice of solo violin was most likely for his companion, violinist Olga Rudge, but also exhibits a fascinating tension between the very nature of poetry as a linguistic art and the non-linguistic art of solo violin music. In Pound’s musical works, he often rejects traditional musical forms and replaces them with poetic forms including the sestina. The sestina is a structured and cyclical ancient poetic form that includes six stanzas, each with six lines. Each stanza utilizes similar words re-ordered, bringing new meaning to each stanza.

Two of Ezra Pound’s works are based on the poetic form of the sestina— Sestina:Altaforte and Al Poco Giorno. Sestina:Altaforte is based on an earlier poem by Pound where he takes the voice of Bertrand de Born, a troubadour. Al Poco Giorno is based on a sestina by Dante. In reaction to Pound’s unique blend of poetry and music, two works—Sestina (after Pound) and The Logical Conclusion are collaborations for this program that take Pound’s poetic and musical ideas and place them in their own compositional language. In JP Merz’s work Sestina (after Pound) he uses the form of the sestina and explores the emotional connection he nds to form. Pound also uses the syllables of his poetry to guide the rhythm of his musical works. Egemen Kesikli’s work The Logical Conclusion uses this same technique based on an early poem Pound’s. Kesikli intersperses these highly rhythmic motives with a technique called soffio crine, where the violinist plays parallel with the strings instead of perpendicular—creating whispering ghost sounds.

I’ve modeled the themes of this program around Pound’s work, but also the interaction between poetry and music. Dealing with poetry and a non-lingual instrument (solo violin) highlights the differences and similarities between the two arts. The film you will see starts with Personae, a collaboration between myself and Denver based filmmaker Jacob Landis-Eigsti, made for this program. The film is a cinepoem of a sestina, and in each visual “stanza” you will see similar actions or objects shown in a different light through the repetitive form. In between the Personae film “stanzas,” I’ve added clips from Stan Brakhage’s film Dante Quartet. This hand-painted abstract film draws similarities to Pound’s penchant for using ancient models (like Dante), but also provides a contrast with the more objective Personae film. This visual manifestation of two different modes of expression in film symbolize the differences and similarities I find between poetry and music. As the program progresses, these different modes of expression become mixed—a reflection on the relationship between poetry and music. 


Personae: The film

A silent film collaboration between Leslee Smucker and Jacob Landis-Eigsti for the project Personae based on the music and poetry of Ezra Pound. The film is in the form of a poetic sestina and cycles through six similar actions six times, each time through a different emotive lens. 
Person-Leslee Smucker
Production, Editing, Film-Jacob Landis-Eigsti
Written and Concept-Leslee Smucker
Directed-Jacob Landis-Eigsti


Personae: Live Performance

ATLAS Program

ATLAS Black Box, CU Boulder, March 3 and 4, 2017.

Recording: Personae

This album is based on Pound’s poetic and musical writings. It is divided into “tercets” or groups of three works that include a work by Pound, a stanza from Jesse Nathan’s poem “Personae,” and a contemporary work.  My intention is for the recording to be one cohesive listening experience, allowing each piece to be a comment on the previous and a transition into the next.

Released by Gega New in 2017, and distributed by Naxos Direct. 

Listen to a sample

Buy the album

David Saemann review from fanfare

Colin Clarke Review from Fanfare

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"The CD’s sound engineering is excellent. Personae is a bewitching collection carefully chosen to elicit the poetic qualities in music and words. I found it captivating from the first time I heard it, and now at my fifth listening it strikes me as even more meaningful. I believe it stimulates the hearer to think of the genesis of music and poetic speech, and for this quality must be highly recommended." --David Saemann, Fanfare

Dissolve: Film, dance collaboration

 

Dissolve, o my heart

Film: Leslee Smucker, time lapsed buddha board

Made specifically for Dissolve, O My Heart for solo violin by Missy Mazzoli, the live performance of Dissolve was in collaboration with Jessica Riggs, dance. Based on a rolling set of poses following the arc of Mizzoli's work, the film and dance comment on the other, yet remain separate.

First performance: September, 2017, Dairy Center for the Arts. 

 
 

Le Voile du Bonheur

Incidental Music to Le Voile du Bonheur is an unknown and unpublished work by Gabriel Fauré that is the basis of my research lecture given in 2016. A play by the statesman George Clemenceau, the piece was not always completely credited to Fauré. The research lecture includes 'scene changes' of film from the Universal Exhibition of 1901, and poetry by Baudelaire between each section of the lecture. The video below cycles through images of costume drawings from the first performance of the play in 1901 at the Renaissance Theatre in Paris. My essay and research lecture is the basis for a co-authored chapter in a forthcoming Cambridge Press publication entitled Fauré Studies with Dr Carlo Caballero. 

This newly discovered work will also be the basis of The Green Room Artists first concert at eTown Hall on March 23, 2018.

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Leslee Smucker--Violin, Ava Pacheco--Viola, Adam Riggs--Cello, Kathryn Harms--Harp, Colleen White--Flute, Jacob Eichorn--Clarinet, Zane Cupec--Percussion, Chris Tran--Concuctor

Leslee Smucker--Violin, Ava Pacheco--Viola, Adam Riggs--Cello, Kathryn Harms--Harp, Colleen White--Flute, Jacob Eichorn--Clarinet, Zane Cupec--Percussion, Chris Tran--Concuctor


Fantaisie en Spirale

Fantaisie en Spirale is a multimedia program for violin and piano and was inspired by French film, music, and art from the 1920s. Combining music by Caleb Burhans, Olivier Messiaen, Karol Szymanowski, Astor Piazzola and others with film by George Mileies, Rene Clair, and Marcel Duchamp the recital is a celebration of the unique spiral of life. Poetry by Lorca also guides this recital from beginning to end. 

print by Leslee Smucker

print by Leslee Smucker

Spiral

 

 by Federico Garcia Lorca

My time advances in a spiral

The spiral limits my landscape,

leaves the past in shadows,

and makes me travel full of uncertainty.

 O straight line! Pure lance without a horseman,

how my spiral path dreams of your light!