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POETS ON MUSIC—SHORT ESSAYS The idea for a collection of essays by poets on music came to me one afternoon last summer while, during a question-and-answer period following a lecture, I listened to Bill Matthews talk off the cuff for a quarter of an hour about the last recordings of Billie Holiday. Though the question he'd been asked was about sound in poetry, his answer had moved quite naturally into the realm of music, and what struck me then was that in that realm he seemed suddenly at liberty to discuss (without having to define) that peculiar quality which distinguishes poetry from other kinds of writing. It's what Eliot called "the auditory imagination," and even in his case it was easier to describe than it was to define. And so, in contacting poets to do these essays, what I asked was not that they examine the explicit connections between their own poetry and music, but that they simply write an appreciation of a particular musician, or performance, or genre. It was my hope that the tone of these appreciations might be as revealing about that "auditory imagination" as any more direct form of investigation. —Sherod Santos BILLIE HOLIDAY AND LESTER YOUNG ON "ME, MYSELF, AND I" / William Matthews JUNE 15, 1937, Holiday had the great Basie rhythm section behind her: Freddie Green, guitar; Walter Page, bass; Jo Jones, drums, nmy Sherman was on piano, sitting in for Teddy Wilson, whom producer John Hammond normally used for these sessions, and though Sherman was a less spry and fuzzier-toned pianist than Wilson, on the numbers cut at this session he played characteristic Wilson figures, as if he knew whom the producer and singer really wanted. Buck Clayton was on trumpet, Edmund Hall on clarinet, and Lester Young played tenor sax. Holiday had recorded a first session under her own name in July 1936, and popular demand for the records was sufficient that, eleven months later, she was at her fifth such date. A session might produce two to four numbers for release. Preparation was minimal. The best The Missouri Review · 263 jazzmen of the time were playing behind her, and most had got their jazz educations playing in well-run bands like Basie's or Benny Goodman's. It was a matter of professional pride for them to come into the studio, check out the head arrangement, run through the piece once or twice, and then to record it. This particular session included "A Sailboat in the Moonlight" and "Without Your Love." "Me, Myself, and I" is a cheerful piece of fluff whose lyrics go like this: Me, Myself, and I are all in love with you We all think you're wonderful, we do Me, Myself, and I have just one point of view We're convinced there's no one else like you It can't be denied, dear, you brought the sun to us We'd be satisfied, dear, if you'd belong to one of us If you pass me by, three hearts will break in two Cause Me, Myself, and I are all in love with you What the band does is wait for Lester Young to string together a pair of supple four-bar phrases that weave like a sine curve around the melody, not yet stated, and then they vamp quietly while Holiday goes through the lyrics once. The tempo is a jaunty fox trot. This is a young Billie Holiday, when her style was most clearly influenced by Louis Armstrong's singing and before the natural elegance of her phrasing had begun to turn to mannerism. In this recording there's none of the passionate identification she makes with the lyrics of, let's say, her January 1937 version of "I Must Have That Man;" you can feel those lyrics fill with longing and erotic greed as she gets farther and farther into them. These are the lyrics of a pop tune of the day, some hopeful composer's little money-maker, and she skates over them gracefully, for to let much weight fall on such lyrics would buckle them. In her torchier numbers we hear the brokenhearted...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 163-166
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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