Strange Conversation (2006)

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cd_strange_photoKris Delmhorst’s fourth studio release, Strange Conversation (Signature Sounds, June 2006), is a vital and celebratory meditation on art and its ability to speak across time and distance. After several albums of genre-bending original work, Delmhorst found inspiration in the work of various well-known poets. Some of the poems are set verbatim to music, some dismantled and reassembled in significantly new renditions, others merely used as the jumping-off point for Delmhorst’s own literate lyrical take. The fact that the album feels modern, cohesive, and joyful is testament both to the inherent timelessness of the poems and to the skillful adaptations that bring them to life as songs – not to mention Delmhorst’s wine-deep, honey-bright voice, which can deliver even a centuries-old phrase directly to the doorstep of the listener’s soul.

LYRICS


GALUPPI BALDASSARE
Oh Galuppi Baldassare, though I never knew your name,
it’s thanks to Mr. Browning you are with us just the same.
Thanks to Mr. Browning, blowing on the flame…

Well here you come with your old music, and here’s all the good it brings-
you say they lived like this in Venice when the merchants were the kings,
and though I never left old Boston, still you showed me everything

Did the young folks take their pleasure? Was the ocean warm in May?
Did the parties start at midnight, did they roll until midday?
And did the ladies bloom like bellflowers, every time you’d start to play?

Well I bet that they all loved you, I bet they stood around and cheered,
saying “that’s what I call music, good for joy and good for tears,
now let’s stop all this talking, and let it fill our ears.”

And the minor third so bitter, the six chord like a sigh,
suspension, solution, asking must we die, must we die must we die?
And the seventh says well fellas, life might not last, but we can try…

So were you happy? I was happy. You still happy? Yes, and you?
Then more kisses! Why’d we stop them, when a million seemed so few?
There’s something in that music, lord it must be answered to.

Then they left you for their fortune, in due time one by one.
Some had lives that came to nothing, some did things they’d better not have done,
and then death stepped up and took em where they’ll never see the sun…

Oh but you you ghostly cricket, singing where the house has burned,
‘dust and ashes, dead and done with, Venice spent what Venice earned,’
but what’s left behind I wonder, when the kissing has adjourned?

‘Dust and ashes,’ so you tell me, and I cannot say you’re wrong,
still those dear dead dancing ladies with their hair so soft and long
stir a little in their slumber, every time we play your song.

‘Cause the minor third’s still bitter, the six chord makes us sigh,
suspension, solution, asking must we die, must we also die?
And the seventh still says well, life might not last, but we can try…


WE’LL GO NO MORE A-ROVING
Lyrics: Lord George Gordon Byron

So we’ll go no more a-roving
So late into the night
Though the heart be still as loving
And the moon be still as bright

For the sword outwears its sheath
And the soul wears out the breast
And the heart must pause to breathe
And love itself have rest

Though the night was made for loving
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.


LIGHT OF THE LIGHT
lyrics adapted from: Walt Whitman, “A Passage to India”

We can wait no longer, we can wait no more

After the darkness,
Unspeakable high processions
Sun and moon and countless teeming stars
We came down from the garden
Wandering with our questions,
Where this life? O why this restless soul?

Who will soothe the fevered children,
Who will heal these separations,
Maybe even now it’s coming
We can wait no longer, we can wait no more

Let’s go together
I with you and you with me
We’ll climb the mountains, walk the trackless plains
Carry me through forever
Lift me up and wash me clean and
Let me melt into that endless flame

Light of the light, light of the light, light of the light

O my soul.
Steer us to uncharted waters, hoist the anchor, shake out every sail.
My brave soul.
If they’re all the seas of heaven
Why should we not go where all maps fail?

We’ve been waiting in this harbor
We were built for deeper waters
Farther farther farther farther now

Light of the light, light of the light, light of the light
We can wait no longer, we can wait no more


SINCE YOU WENT AWAY
lyrics adapted from: James Weldon Johnson, “Sence You Went Away”

Seems like to me the stars don’t shine so bright,
Seems like to me the sun has lost its light,
Seems like to me there’s nothing going right,
Since you went away.

Seems like to me the sky ain’t half so blue,
Seems like to me that everything wants you,
Seems like to me I don’t know what to do,
Since you went away.

And everything is wrong,
The day is twice as long,
And the bird’s forgot his song,

Seems like to me I just can’t help but sigh,
Seems like to me my throat keeps getting dry,
Seems like to me a tear stays in my eye,
Since you went away.


STRANGE CONVERSATION
lyrics inspired by Hermann Broch, “The Death of Virgil”

I heard they had a strange conversation the night Virgil died
He held his frail head up and said I think I wish I’d never tried
To dive down through the darkness, to climb up through the blue
Because beauty without cruelty is ever so much worse than untrue
Let it burn, let it burn, let it burn

And even the divine inspiration of Orpheus’ song
It ends with the singing, the spell can only last as long
Then men fall back to blindness, the streams refind their beds
The wild beasts rise back up and spill the blood of innocents
Let it burn, let it burn, let it burn

And our arms branched out like rivers,
Our body filled the world,
The moon hung in our hair,
And the starry night unfurled…

Now are all the waves set to foaming on Ilium’s strand
And all my life’s labor feels like just a feather in my hand
So no more I’ll be your keeper, or sing these songs for you
Take all these useless verses and please take this useless body too
Let it burn, let it burn, let it burn


THE DROP & THE DREAM
lyrics inspired by Hermann Broch, “The Death of Virgil”

In twilight and blindness
All our work is done
We fumble and flail, we try and we fail,
We only are what we almost become

It’s both our curse and our grace, here in this place
To reach for heights that we’ll never climb
And the distance between the drop and the dream
Is our one little piece of the divine

It’s a weak little flame, it’s all we got to our name
So why be ashamed to let it burn


INVISIBLE CHOIR
lyrics adapted from: George Eliot, “The Choir Invisible”

Oh may I join that invisible choir
I want to join that invisible choir
Made of those sweet immortal voices
That lift our hearts up higher

I want to live after I die
I want to live after I die
I want to make a bit of beauty
And leave a little light behind

Or be the balm to someone’s sadness, the song for someone’s gladness,
A cup of strength to someone in their fight
Or maybe sweeten an existence, inspire a persistence,
Or breathe the breath that makes the spark of love burn bright

Oh may I reach the heaven most high
I want to reach that heaven most high
And be a little star a shining
In someone’s darkest night


PRETTY HOW TOWN
lyrics adapted from: e.e. cummings, “anyone lived in a pretty how town”

anyone lived in a pretty how town
with up so floating many bells down
summer fall winter spring
he sang his didn’t he danced his did

women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew)
winter spring summer fall
that noone loved him more by all

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and still by stir
anyone’s any was all to her

one day anyone died I guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
with up so many floating bells down

women and men (both dong and ding)
summer fall winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain


TAVERN
lyrics: Edna St. Vincent Millay

I’ll keep a little tavern
Below the high hill’s crest
Where all the grey-eyed people
Can set them down and rest

There will be plates a-plenty
And mugs to melt the chill
Of all the grey-eyed people
Who happen up the hill

There sound will sleep the traveler
And dream his journey’s end
But I will rise at midnight
The fading fire to tend

Oh I know it’s a curious fancy
But all the good I’ve known
Was taught to me by two grey eyes
A long time ago


WATER WATER
from Robert Herrick, “Scare-Fire”

Water water I desire
Here’s a house made of flesh on fire
Open the fountains and the springs
And come you all with your bucketings

Water water bring it round
Throw your bucket on the ground
Air is hotter, flames are higher
It’s a full-blown scare-fire

What you cannot quench, you must burn down,
Lose one house to save the town
It’s better still that one should fall
Than by its burning risk them all
Water water

Water water bring me more
Douse the rafters and the floor
Throw your bucket, take your turn
Or just stand back and let the damn thing burn
Water water

Water water I desire
Look out baby I’m a scare fire scare fire


EVERYTHING IS MUSIC
lyrics adapted from Rumi, “Where Everything Is Music”

We’ve come to the place where everything is music
Everything is music, let it play.

Why do you stay in jail when the door is wide open?
Let the beauty that you love be what you do.

Stop talking now, open up the window
The one right there in the middle of your heart
Give us your hands, sit down in this circle
You know you got no need to keep yourself apart

Today you wake up sad and empty, don’t go back to sleep.
There’s a million ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Don’t worry now, about saving all these songs,
There’s so many more just waiting to be found.
And if all these instruments should disappear
We would still hear something coming up from way down in the ground

Because we’ve come to the place where everything is music
Everything is music, let it play.