- Song of the Firewood -
Written for the Korea Times SF – 8/17/2012
Jaime de Angulo, born in Paris in 1887 and educated as a medical doctor at Johns Hopkins, had a distinguished career as a linguist specializing in languages of the Native Americans of Northern California. He also wrote fiction and poetry and even notated some of the music of the Indians he met (in his own idiosyncratic graphic notation). De Angulo lived, at various times, in Carmel, Big Sur, San Francisco and Berkeley, where he died in 1950. I’d like to introduce “Song of the Firewood”, one of his poems -
I am old, twisted, dry. I am cold.
Build the fire.
Heh! Heeh-heh … he-he-he … feel good.
Let the chief call the dancers
Yes! Firewood, a broomstick, a chair, even a computer – they can all sing. If I’d encountered this poem as a 20-year-old, I might not have understood. Now though, a few decades older, I know how the firewood felt. “I am old, twisted, dry and cold”. Once the fire is built and lit, such warmth, and I can’t stop the silly laughter. I warm up, shake myself and break into dance. But soon, I’m not dancing anymore, I’m jumping up and down in horrible pain – that’s really hot, I’m burning! More and more fire until I’m only ashes – such a relief now, the silence…finally. But the flames flare up! …now, again, silence…
My piece, “Song of the Firewood”, composed in 2010 for 25 string kayageum, was inspired by de Angulo’s poem. Firewood turning into ashes, that’s the structure and texture of my piece. De Angulo’s writings weren’t well known during his lifetime, most of them were published after he died. As I enjoyed reading his poem (60 years after his death), some people enjoy hearing my music (while I’m still alive!). The saying is “There’s nothing new under the sun” but, somehow, composers, writers, painters manage to paint pictures, write stories and compose songs. As I write these words, I notice an empty plate on my desk that a few hours ago had peach slices on it. Hey dish! Stand up and let’s roll around the world together…