Poetry Spoken and Sung

Baptism: A Journey Through Our Time was a 1968 album of poetry spoken and sung by Joan Baez.

Artwork by Robert Peak. Design by Jules Halfant

 

TRACK LISTING

Old Welsh Song” (Henry Treece)
2.”I Saw the Vision of Armies” (Walt Whitman)
3.”Minister of War” (Arthur Waley)
4.”Song In the Blood” (Lawrence Ferlinghetti/Jacques Prévert)
5.”Casida of the Lament” (J.L. Gili/Federico García Lorca)
6.”Of the Dark Past” (James Joyce)
7.”London” (William Blake)
8.”In Guernica” (Norman Rosten)
9.”Who Murdered the Minutes” (Henry Treece)
10.”Oh, Little Child” (Henry Treece)
11.”No Man Is an Island” (John Donne)
12.”Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man” (James Joyce)
13.”All the Pretty Little Horses” (traditional)
14.”Childhood III” (Arthur Rimbaud/Louis Varese)
15.”The Magic Wood” (Henry Treece)
16.”Poems from the Japanese” (Kenneth Rexroth)
17.”Colours” (P. Levi, R. Milner-Gulland, Yevgeny Yevtushenko)
18.”All in green went my love riding” (E. E. Cummings)
19.”Gacela of the Dark Death” (Federico García Lorca/Stephen Spender)
20.”The Parable of the Old Man and the Young” (Wilfred Owen)
21.”Evil” (N. Cameron/Arthur Rimbaud)
22.”Epitaph for a Poet” (Countee Cullen)
23.”Mystic Numbers- 36″
24.”When The Shy Star Goes Forth In Heaven” (James Joyce)
25.”The Angel” (William Blake)
26.”Old Welsh Song” (Henry Treece)

 

Joan Baez‘s most unusual album, Baptism is of a piece with the “concept” albums of the late ’60s, but more ambitious than most and different from all of them. Baez by this time was immersed in various causes, concerning the Vietnam War, the human condition, and the general state of the world, and it seemed as though every note of music that she sang was treated as important — sometimes in a negative way by her opponents; additionally, popular music was changing rapidly, and even rock groups that had seldom worried in their music about too much beyond the singer’s next sexual conquest were getting serious. Baptism was Baez getting more serious than she already was, right down to the settings of her music, and redirecting her talent from folk song to art song, complete with orchestral accompaniment. Naturally, her idea of a concept album would differ from that of, say, Frank Sinatra or The Beatles. Baptism was a body of poetry selected, edited, and read and sung by Baez, and set to music by Peter Schickele (better known for his comical musical “discoveries” associated with “P.D.Q. Bach,” but also a serious musician and composer). In 1968, amid the strife spreading across the world, the album had a built-in urgency that made it work as a mixture of art and message — today, it seems like a precious and overly self-absorbed period piece.

A clip of Whitman’s poem spoken by Joan Baez can be listened on The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228

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I Am The Ghost of Shadwell Stair

Photograph by Michael Vincent Manalo

 
 

I am the ghost of Shadwell Stair.
Along the wharves by the water-house,
And through the cavernous slaughter-house,
I am the shadow that walks there.

Yet I have flesh both firm and cool,
And eyes tumultuous as the gems
Of moons and lamps in the full Thames
When dusk sails wavering down the pool.

Shuddering the purple street-arc burns
Where I watch always; from the banks
Dolorously the shipping clanks
And after me a strange tide turns.

I walk till the stars of London wane
And dawn creeps up the Shadwell Stair.
But when the crowing syrens blare
I with another ghost am lain.

Wilfred Owen

 
 

This poem was first drafted at Scarborough between January and February 1918, then in July or August it was revised just prior to Owen’s tragic death. Its message is cryptic, bound up with Wilfred’s sexuality and his association with gay literary figures such as Robert Ross (Oscar Wilde‘s friend), Osbert Sitwell and Charles Scott Moncrieff (the translator of Marcel Proust) who, along with Siegfried Sassoon, were doing much to forward Wilfred’s career as a poet.