Saturday, April 20, 2024



I am no great reader of poetry. I have been touched by it here and there over the years, but rarely deeply and lastingly. So I am finding myself in both a curious project, and an illuminating one.

Having discovered a bit of new AI Technological madness call Udio, an extraordinary music generator, I have, among other things, started digging out old, mildly famous poetry, and attempting to fashion it into songs through the use of this innovation. This process, when successful, takes two or three hours steady work to get to a mostly finished song, usually a song two or three minutes long. The style of my songs so made vary from Dylanesque, to Janis Joplin, The Kinks, and Melanie, all the way to garage rock of the aughts, and the work of French Chanteuses from I'm not exactly sure when. There's even a weird bit of carnival music in there. For the poets I use, I avoid anything too modern and also anything too old, and include more famous people like Baudelaire, Rilke, and Emily Dickinson, but also Stevie Smith, William Allingham, Louise Gluck, and Sarojini Naidu- people I have either vaguely heard of or not at all.

I adore these songs I have made.





Surely it is partly the joy of having made something new. I have always experienced an unavoidable narcissism in that. But also it is in seeing the illumination of these verses I could normally not attend to. Hearing them, as I do in the process of creating these songs, which is surely as much as 30 or 40 times, is all the difference in the world to me. And the blandness I experience in my first encounter reading them is turned, by these songs, into an admiration and passionate reaction I hold for some of my favorite art.

I have one song that came out unnervingly in the style of Janis Joplin, of a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, called "Souvenir", and when I hear the verse:

I remember three or four

Things you said in spite,

And an ugly coat you wore,

Plaided black and white.

My feeling and reaction is the same as hearing some great passage from a Leonard Cohen song. The words, in all their art, are for me wholly brought to life. They utterly pierce me. 

Today I was working on another short poem/song, this by Longfellow, called "Loss and Gain". I would always have counted Longfellow as a poet with some nice musicality, but offering nothing to care about in what he said for me. His words seemed to veer too close to some kind of homily. But listening to it as an awesome rock song, and hearing it over and over? I suddenly felt his idea as it developed, and when he drove to a self defiant conclusion of:

But who shall dare

To measure loss and gain in this wise?

Defeat may be victory in disguise;

The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.

I was struck marveled in his wisdom and in his cry for the value of things unvalued. It was awesome.

You will see here no links to any of these songs I extol, and which, in your hearing them, I feel in my heart would make my point. But I share none of these songs with you now. Possibly some of this can be accounted to the work that must be taken to turn them into videos to make them reachable for you from this place. Some of it, though, is that I simply love them too much. Seeing, after several days, what amounts to three or four views of my YouTube video of my song of a poem of Emily Dickinson is oddly horrifying. This is what happens to something I count among the best things I have ever had a hand in making?

 Although I do recognize the irony in this. The very song itself says:

How dreary to be somebody!

How public like a frog,

To tell one's name the livelong June,

To an admiring bog!

And it hardly seems likely these songs won't show up here sooner or later, if anyone cares.

But for me they are mine. 

And I listen to them with a cold private fury of delight, and find them special.



  1. I stumbled into Udio via your post; I thank you in advance, sarcastically but also sincerely, for the hours of not-asleep that I will accrue while editing, remixing, and listening to what the robot bands strike up at my request. Good luck with your promptings!

    1. You're welcome. It's amazing how something that starts "astonishing at what can be done in mere seconds" can so easily become "What on earth have I just spent five hours doing?"

    2. Exactly — as someone with time-dilation and time-constriction problems, this plays into all my worst habits in the best of ways. If there were a better way to distract me from everything, I (wouldn't) like to see it.

      I worked on two experimental minimalist pieces with specific instrumentation, and each piece turned out unique—not like one another, nor most anything else I've ever heard. And I liked what I heard!

    3. Oh, and just so you know: I stumbled into your blog after having found a stash of photocopies of "I.E. Skin's Guide To Everything" from the early 1990s.

    4. Thanks for letting me know about the cartoon path. Like any path to clerkmanifesto, it is narrow, overgrown, deep in the woods, and usually only used infrequently by wild foxes and skunks. One-third of my human readership is known to me personally, one-third through random bits of Internet ephemera like a thirty-year-old cartoon, and I'm not sure about the other two people.


      As is maybe the nature of all tech, after a couple weeks obsession I am starting to chart out some of the boundary limits of Udio's capabilities, but I haven't stopped being obsessed yet. I am currently working on a music video for an old English poem about wee folk, as sung by what sounds suspiciously like The Band.

      As you clearly seem to understand, the project positively chews through the hours!


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