Thursday, July 24, 2008

Patti Smith, Kevin Shields, Robert Mapplethorpe

Patti Smith and Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) have just released a two-disc set of readings from Patti's 1996 poetry book, The Coral Sea, dedicated to Robert Mapplethorpe. The audio CD version of The Coral Sea is released on Patti's own label, not Columbia, so it's a bit hard to find. She does not read the book in two parts across the two discs; instead, these are two distinctly different readings from 2005 and 2006, both at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. The 2005 performance is crisp and minimalist, with each syllable emphasized and Kevin's backing more ambient, while the 2006 performance has louder, swirling performances from Kevin, while Patti sounds lush, almost slurring.
Patti's liner notes speak for themselves:

"My great friend, the artist Robert Mapplethorpe, died of complications from AIDS on March 9, 1989. His mortal suffering was so profound that I wept through much of the illness. After his death I wanted to give him something other than tears, so I wrote The Coral Sea.

I had tried to read it publicly, but could never sustain reading the entire piece. Performing with Kevin Shields gave me an all-encompassing landscape in which I could explore the emotions that drove me to write it. It was a privilege working with Kevin, a gifted, humble, and extremely confident musician. I believe we produced together a fitting memorial to Robert, who was, when I was young, my bloody valentine."


Sharon said...

I'm not familiar with Patti Smith or Kevin Shields work but I was able to listen to an audio clip from the 2005 Queen Elizabeth Hall reading on realize that the CD has a whole musical/auditory dimension but think I'll ILL the book before delving into the intensity of their much to take in!

Ruth said...

I was intrigued that Patti was able to get through what she wrote if she performed it with Kevin Shields playing behind her. Music, melody, evoke even more emotion for me than a straight reading. It's cool that she found a way to keep pushing through until she could express the memorial to her friend. What a tribute.

Loring Wirbel said...

Wow, Sharon, a big Laurie Anderson fan and you don't know any of Patti's work? Admittedly, she put some folks off with her punky stylings in the late 1970s, but check out works like "Babelfield" or "Peace and Noise" for a treat. I think her best studio music albums are "Easter" and "Horses", and the best live performance is the bootleg "Teenage Perversity and Ships in the Night."

Sharon said...

Okay I will. I am completely and utterly musically illiterate. Long ago a friend introduced me to Laurie Anderson and Kate Bush who I both really like. And I love Leonard Cohen's writing/lyrics/poetry and as a result was introduced to Antony and the Johnsons. But music is definitely a subject where I am nothing short of ignorant; a blank slate. I'll definitely go and explore Patti Smith. Thanks.

Loring Wirbel said...

Kate Bush! Leonard Cohen! Antony! Friends with good taste.