Serendipity, Connections, and Trends

Into my emailbox poped a message from a guy who wrote “Dear…I don’t even know your name…but I do know Luther Henderson.” My correspondent stumbled across my blog postings about Luther and wrote to say that his dad and Luther were friends and worked together back in the 1940s. Needless to tell you, I got in touch right away — to talk with someone who had “been there” is invaluable to a researcher. We had a lovely chat this morning and he has put me in touch with one of Luther’s colleagues, a man now living in Canada, Gene Di Novi, who I believe became Lena Horne’s musical director immediately following Luther in the early 1950s.

Di Novi? That sounds so recently familiar. Of course! “Gene Di Novi: A Life In Music” is the show at The Jazz Bakery right here in Los Angeles for one-day only…this coming Monday. Gene is right here in town, right now, and my correspondent has given me his telephone number. Serendipity? Connections? Someone is looking out for me? All of the above. So I placed the call, left a message, wrote a note of thanks to my correspondent, and decided to check out a few blogs before plunging back into my own to-do list.

Visiting On An Overgrown Path, I was introduced to contemporary classical music composer Eric Whitacre. (Just a few days ago I ‘discovered’ classical violinist Christian Tetzlaff, and classical music critic Jeremy Eichler — classical is on the brain.) Pliable mentions that Whitacre graduated from the Juilliard School of Music (as did Luther Henderson, but back then it was called the Insitute of Musical Art). The clip I heard online from Whitacre’s Hyperion recording, Cloudburst is beautiful and the choral works listed piqued my curiosity and lead me to wonder if a new trend is afoot. I haven’t researched this yet, but I suspect that it is not a new trend at all, rather one that is newly come into focus on my personal radar screen and/or one that comes and goes over time. The trend (if it is that) to which I refer is the blending and cross-pollenation of poetry and music. Here are the tracks on Whitacre’s CD as listed on Hyperion’s site:

i thank You God for most this amazing day 1999 E E Cummings
I hide myself 1991 Emily Dickinson
Sleep 2000 Charles Anthony Silvestri
i will wade out 1999 E E Cummings
Go, lovely Rose 1991 Edmund Waller
When David heard 1999 II Samuel 18:33
hope, faith, life, love 1999 E E Cummings
Cloudburst * 1993 Octavio Paz
With a lily in your hand 1991 Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca
This Marriage 2004 Jalal al-Din Rumi
Water Night 1995 Octavio Paz
A Boy and a Girl 2002 Octavio Paz
Her sacred spirit soars 2002 Charles Anthony Silvestri
Lux aurumque 2000 Edward Esch / Charles Anthony Silvestri

This brings to mind Maria Schneider, about whom I recently wrote. If you have checked out her Concert in the Garden recording, you may have noticed that the title track is inspired by and named after the poem by Octavio Paz. Also recently in my thoughts has been pianist Fred Hersch. He is appearing at the Village Vanguard in New York next week (February 28 – March 05) and I have been intrigued by his Leaves of Grass recording, “a large-scale setting of Walt Whitman’s poetry for two voices and an instrumental octet.”

I don’t have time to really research this poetry-music connection right now, but I did do a quick google search which led me to a course (Poetry, Music, Performance) taught at CUNY Buffalo which led me to one of the professor’s blogs, which on February 17th mentioned Sara Fishko (the fantastic radio interviewer who produced a really outstanding piece about John) for NPR, and there I think I must stop…for now…but it odd that Sara is already on my list of calls to make during my next trip to New York. Now I will make a note to ask her about poetry and music as it sounds to be a topic that might be on her radar screen already.

What are your thoughts on the subject?