Poetry and Prepared piano improvisations @ Perdu

Photography by Hermien Buyse

Perdu Poetry Foundation is a theatre, bookshop and gem of Amsterdam that gives a stage to poetry, readings and occasionally weird things like this live jam session between me and various poets from the public. This time the show opened with a colab with Billy Morgan (@billymoregone). The idea was to “warm up” the stage for members of the public to take the mic, but that would be an understatement. Billy is a dancer and writer and he used the entire stage. In both senses of the word… it was lit.

I got to know his text for the first time a few weeks before. Meeting every now and then to find a flow but never putting anything down on paper. It changed every time.

…A few nights before I soldered a piezo pickup. (Somehow managing to solder 5 audio cables into 1 jack. I’m honestly not sure how i pulled that off). Sticking them on different locations in the instrument we amplified all of the materials, the guts, of the piano through the PA system: The thud of the metal frame, the creaking of the mechanism, the roar of the pinewood soundboard, the, xylophone-like voice of the pedal shanks. The piano became a kind of free-game percussion instrument.

This is a whole new challenge from improvising with musicians. I also learn so much from it: As a storyteller and a songwriter, it feels like a rare research opportunity into how to balance text with music, without it becoming diegetic. ( By that I mean avoiding doing what the Looney Tunes soundtrack does, giving a musical motif to every action on the screen: a footstep, a flying hammer, a bump emerging from a characters head.)

To put improv music and poetr together in a programme you have to be either mad, or as bold as the poet and programmer, Jimena Casas (@jimena999999999999), who only settles for bringing the raw, romantic and lyrical spoken word to Perdu. At this show, rather than hearing precious and private poetry read from a shaking piece of paper, she invites poets to go on stage and revive the spontaneous fire in their texts. Usually the job of a programmer is to find a formula for an event that is bound to work, but the only way this event is formulaic is its just consistently surprising in a very good way. (Also that Jimena makes sure the stage is a welcoming.)

One thought on “Poetry and Prepared piano improvisations @ Perdu

  1. This is great. I like your story, it gives me some insight in what you are actually doing with your piano and it makes me want to follow more of your stories. And, since I was there, it is a sweet memory of a lovely night.

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