Musical Caesura


Poetry and music have  always borrowed ideas from each other. Sometimes the borrowings are acknowledged in the title of a work. A poetic example is “Picnickers in New York, A Fugue for a Lost Cartographer” by Yeow Kai Chai, music reviewer for The Straits Times. The long prose-poem (from the volume pretend i’m not here) is organized like the contrapuntal structure of a fugue. The Latin root of fugue is fuga, which is related to both fugare (“to chase”) and fugere (“to flee”).

Darren Ng, the man behind the music project SONICBRAT, is, in turn, inspired by poetry. “Caesura” is the fifth track of his new record  Stranger to my room. As its poetic name suggests, the piano solo pauses mid-eddy, as if to reconsider what  has gone before and what is still to come. It has the rich introspection associated with lyric poetry. The album is SONICBRAT’s debut release on the Singapore-based record label Kitchen. Label. The producer reaches, aptly, for poetry to describe the inspiration of the album:

“Recorded entirely in his own house where he has been living alone for the past 8 years, “Stranger to my room” is an album exploring the personal relationship of time, space and being, reflecting upon a familiar yet alienating loneliness. The atmosphere of “Stranger to my room” is suitably intimate and warmly affecting – the track titles are reflective of small fleeting wonders observed at home that Darren has used as theme to base his compositions on, eliciting profound emotions from the simplest of metaphors.”

The description of Darren Ng’s recording techniques makes for a prose-poem:

“In parts, the album’s intimacy and textural quality is created by his recording techniques – from a closely mic’d upright piano to capture hammered hits of the piano, to microphones placed at various parts of his house where even the tiniest details and sounds are brought to the surface. The result creates a rich and natural environment recorded with the purest and most microscopic process.”

About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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