On the occasion of the U.K. launch for Music & Literature no. 6 at The Forum in Norwich, England, the British poet and Hungarian translator George Szirtes was invited to read a poem as a preface to Roman Yusipey's performance, on accordion, of the Ukrainian composer Victoria Polevà's Null, a composition written for Yusipey himself. Subsequent to that evening, Szirtes was moved to write a further poem inspired by and dedicated to Yusipey. Music & Literature is proud to publish both poems in their entirety.
Three Improvisations on Music
Cheap music is not as cheap as it was. One can wander in its corridors for hours before emerging. It’s the leaving that’s expensive. Always something to be paid, and then the tip in the form an encore which takes its time fading.
Listen, someone is playing an accordion as though it were an organ. It is all vox humana and not a particularly clear voice either. It’s merely a mouth organ with legs and a ridiculous wing that spreads and closes.
Cheap music keeps low company. It hangs around street corners and at disreputable stage doorways waiting for the star to emerge but when the star walks by music is ignored. Cheap music makes music out of that.
My father blew a serviceable mouth organ round the boy scout fire. His symphonic arrangements lurched and hobbled in the moonlight.
Under the music another music, below
that another that is hardly music but noise –
something wells in the throat of the day
and day gives forth, lends ear, pronounces
one syllable then another and begins
to whistle or hum or tap its delicate fingers
on a windowsill or on the edge of a plate,
searching for the hidden, for the sound
time makes as it passes, for the measure
it moves to, for the melodic shift in pitch
that opens on a glimpse of a whole landscape
through which music can begin to move
as though it belonged there, as if it was
the place that produced it, as if it were natural,
neither building nor fluid architecture.
In a notional Paris of the imagination
cafés make their own music which is
not all Piaf and Prevert but a darker tide
boring under all thirty-seven bridges
that municipal authorities provide.
Music has its own administration,
is more like river than street, more like dream,
more sea, more rain, more thunder, sun and cloud
and yet we make it rounded on a theme
and run it through its paces soft or loud.
Music and words: the nature we invent
as consolation out of joy or pity
to turn what happens into an event
as complex as a murder or a city.
A piece for accordion
for Roman Yusipey
is as random
does. A gathering,
bricolage, the nostalgia
They return to nature.
Plastic toys, gift wrapping, trashings,
mouth organs and Jew's harps,
tongs, bones, comb and paper, coke cans,
limbs and organs –
recognises as history
us and we them,
all that is physical
and fraught with random qualities
at street corners
grazed by the wind, unwound
by weather. The sheer randomness
isn't it, friends,
to find constellations
of chance events? Is anything
but not quite here,
at this quaint cross-section
of the familiar unknown
the chance music
of nothing much at all,
the overwhelming beautiful
strewn about the sky like music
Roman Yusipey is an Ukrainian accordionist and music journalist. He has collaborated extensively with contemporary composers, premiering numerous works for button accordion. He studies at the Folkwang University in Essen, Germany, with Professor Mie Miki.
George Szirtes is a poet and translator from the Hungarian. His twelfth collection, Reel, won the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2004, a prize for which his two subsequent books have also been shortlisted. He has won the Best Translated Book Award and shared, with Ottilie Mulzet, the translators' Man Booker International Prize for his translations of László Krasznahorkai.