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ARS POETICA: Writing & Recording (reposted from Facebook)


The writing of this song occurred piecemeal over a great deal of time and then all came together at once. I had several sets of stanzas and couplets ("In light filled chambers and wind-filled wood, we did all that we could to bring beauty to this world/With music hollow, strong, and light as the bones of birds, buoyed by a melody and anchored by the weight of words"; "From the beginning we existed, yet we arrived in media res") that had been lying around for years untouched in my notebooks, awaiting a "place."


Then whilst in California, I wrote the first full verse based on that latter line, and the idea of "Ars Poetica" came to me, of a group of creators who invented everything about themselves, including themselves, in order to fill the world with music, beauty, and hope in spite of all superstitions and resistance.


Of course, I did a bit of quick research, because I remembered that the ancient poet Horace had written a treatise entitled "Ars Poetica." I was amazed at how perfectly what I'd written already fit his definition of art, and built the additional verse around his classic work. The chorus I built around my idea of the narrative that came to me in California.

Then, upon further research, I learned that Archibald MacLeash had ALSO written a modernist poem entitled "Ars Poetica" during the first half of the 20th century. His poem had enough in common with the lines about birds' bones for me to work it into the narrative.


I came home from California and quickly composed music to it, something in a minor key, very Medieval sounding to my ear but without feeling "sad" so much as simply ancient and still hopeful. Looking to buck convention, I had the song end on a bridge rather than a chorus or a verse reiterated, and I had the melody resolve on a C chord despite having been written in D minor/B flat.


I then made a quick demo and began working out three-part harmonies: I wanted it to sound like a Peter, Paul & Mary song with no lead voice, just equal harmonies. Consequently, I enlisted Barb Gurskey to provide the high voicing to contrast with my two vocals after recording with the band (Tom and Paul laid down guitars and percussion, respectively, in my home studio, although Steve Jankowski mixed & mastered at Jankland).

You can download a copy at iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ars-poetica-feat.-barbara/id1027210787?i=1027211168


LYRICS TO ARS POETICA:


From the beginning we existed, yet we arrived in media res

And adhered to high ideals and accorded to the pace,

The harmony, proportion, dictated by the greats:

A knowledge of our characters that underpinned our fates.


We were invented. We were invention of our own devices and only thus without contention;

As though from Masters' Brushes' strokes we painted,

No need for any greater god's intervention —

No threads to entangle, no plots to unmangle, just narrative angle.


In metered feet we traveled, wisely chosen, useful, sweet,

In common sense, propriety of theme and diction, meet.

We were poor beyond all reason with wealth that only poesy knows

But none suspect for care to avoid purpling of prose


We were invented. We were invention of our own devices and only thus without contention;

As though from Masters' Brushes' strokes we painted,

No need for any greater god's intervention —

No threads to entangle, no plots to unmangle, just narrative angle.



And in light filled chambers and wind-filled wood,

We did all that we could to bring beauty to this world

With music hollow, strong, and light as the bones of birds,

Buoyed by a melody and anchored by the weight of words.

 

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