Krakow, 1990 – sound piece

from New Chapters, Eastern Europe 1990

John Bennett and John Laidler, sound

I look down on black and white seminarians
snaking Indian file to the Cathedral, soles
barely touching the pavement, smart young men
old enough for sexual fever and violent death
to unzip their skin wall, succumbing inside-out
eviscerated, slime evaporating to ordained dust.

At a similar age, half of those surveyed in Britain
claim ignorance of Auschwitz.

I refused to go:
because I’m a poet
and would have used the occasion to write a poem.

All eight pieces: Czeckoslvakia; Trenčín now in Slovakia; Hungary; Poland; and Germany (including Pergamon  in ancient Greece, now Turkey) are available as sounds on Bandcamp HERE 

A few years after the end of the Second World War, Theodor W. Adorno wrote: ‘ To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.’ I examine the role and responsibility of a poet after Auschwitz HERE.

History happens in hindsight, but occasionally you realise you are a witness. For example, John B. was travelling in Iran a fortnight before the Shah fled and witnessed the hostility to Westerners, saw the demonstrations, experienced the revolution.
In 1989 the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe fell one after the other. Travelling through Eastern Europe in the spring of 1990, change was happening quickly. The first free democratic elections were being held and the excitement was palpable. Too many people in democracies take their vote for granted – it matters.
These eight pieces give snapshots of John B.’s experiences in what was Czeckoslvakia (Trenčín is now in Slovakia), Hungary, Poland and Germany (including ancient Greece, now Turkey).

John Laidler reveals: Apart from adding some obvious diegetic elements (e.g. Krakow), the two sources for the soundtrack were traditional/folk instruments from the country, and national composers who are known for reflecting some sort of local identity in their music (e.g. Chopin in Warsaw). Overall, trying to complement the mood of the piece, maybe sad and reflective, or amused, etc. Improvisation and experiment often yields unpredicted but apt results.


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