Fugue: The Sight | a poetic premiere
Sept. 4 & 5 | 4:45p | Northwest Corner of Lincoln Hall
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, poet
Desmond Bratton, bass
I’ve worked with Desmond for several years now. I find his process discomfiting, even as I am absorbed by the way he composes. Word by word, he wants to know: what was I thinking in each moment? What are the poem’s hidden affinities? His questions are probing. He pushes to get inside the poems’ meanings, then to push and amplify them with his music. It seems only fitting to collaborate with him on a new poem I am writing: a fugue entitled “The Sight,” partly inspired by and in conversation with the work of jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk. One may find a fuzzy, black and white Youtube video of Rahsaan playing his composition “The Inflated Tear” live in Prague in 1967. that pulls me. “This ain’t no freak show,” Kirk sometimes chided audiences that included those who might have come to watch, rather than listen to the blind musician as he played several saxophones, whistles, bells simultaneously. The sound, the way it scrapes and bends and blends the notes of that piece such that I hear the needle that left him blind—: that’s what I want to do. Except my needle is America, chaotic now in the face of a global Pandemic and a threat of collapse.
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
Listen to first reading of Fugue: The Sight:
Listen to Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Live in Prague, 1967:
About the artists
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is the author of Open Interval, a 2009 finalist for the National Book Award and the LA Times Book Prize, and Black Swan, winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, as well as the chapbooks Leading with a Naked Body with Leela Chantrelle and Poems in Conversation and a Conversation with Elizabeth Alexander. She has been awarded fellowships from Cave Canem, the Lannan Foundation, and Civitella Ranieri. She has written plays and lyrics for The Cherry, an Ithaca arts collective, and in 2018, her work was featured in Courage Everywhere, celebrating women’s suffrage and the fight for political equality, at National Theatre London.
Desmond Bratton is a freelance bassist and pedagogue passionate about community engagement through musical conversation. He holds a Masters of Music from Ithaca College where he studied with Nicholas Walker. Currently, Desmond is a guest lecturer at Cornell University and serves on the double bass faculty at Opus Ithaca. He spends his summers teaching at the Luzerne Music Center. Desmond has been invited to perform and present at seminars through the Greater Miami Youth Symphony, the Deering Estate Chamber Ensemble, MyCM Miami Youth for Chamber Music, and The Arts and Medicine Department of the Moffit Cancer Research Center. At the Moffit Cancer Center, Desmond used songs from West African, African American, and Jewish traditions to bring the community together. He has also given workshops in middle and elementary schools and youth detention facilities, where he emphasizes improvisation as a tool to resolve conflict, communicate, and build community. A recent performance opportunity in South America with the Neuquén Symphony Orchestra in Patagonia led to an invitation to teach double bass seminars in Neuquén and through the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Desmond performs and records in many different styles of music including classical chamber music, jazz and folk. Following an album release in 2018 with singer songwriter Travis Knapp, Desmond recently toured the UK and Europe with a folk group that included double bass, banjo, and percussion.