I'm delighted to share this new release with you! Within My Illusions (The Listening Experience) is a ninety minute spoken word poetry album set to a score composed by my friend and collaborator, Orlando Villarraga.
As with all of the work I've released, I didn't start out intending to make an album. I don't write to create a book or an album or a song. Rather, I write because an experience, emotion, or encounter moves me in such a way that writing about it feels like the most appropriate response. Sometimes I write to make meaning. Sometimes I write to express grief, confusion, awe, beauty, or anything in between. And sometimes I write because a word or phrase inspires me and I get lost in the play of crafting of language. The poems are the artifacts of my experience, healing, growth, and joy.
With each of my books, Brainstorms and Within My Illusions, there came a time when I had collected what felt like a bounty of poetry that I wanted to preserve in some sort of container (sort of like the summer I decided to can peaches). Books seemed like the natural reservoir for the writing.
And yet, poetry in its true form, is a spoken art. In my writing process, I always read poems aloud and I'm not satisfied until it both sounds good and feels satisfying. (Have you ever noticed the way that words feel when you say them?) After I finished writing each book, I recorded myself reading the poems in a studio. Brainstorms became an audiobook with interludes of piano between each poem. Within My Illusions felt like it needed something different. I didn't know what, so I waited.
I met Orlando Villarraga through my involvement with the Garrison Institute Fellowship. Orlando was part of the first cohort of fellows. In addition to being a composer and sound artist, he is also a poet himself. After hearing him talk about his own approach to creating music and sound and collaborating with him for live events, began to imagine Orlando's music as a setting for my spoken word. He was open to collaborating!
We began working on the project around the December Solstice of 2021. We started by meeting regularly over Zoom, listening to the voice recording of each chapters of poems, talking about what we felt, imagined, sensed, and noticed in each chapter. Orlando asked me about my process of curating the poems for the book. Why had I organized the poems in the way that I had? What was was each chapter about for me? What did I feel when I wrote certain poems? We didn't talk about instruments or key signatures or tempo. I wanted Orlando to have full creative license to interpret the emotion through sound.
Chapter by chapter, Orlando composed vivid soundscapes. As we listened to samples together, I was moved to tears. His music felt like such an accurate representation of my inner landscape. The recordings were completed in May of 2022, then sent to sound engineers for mixing and mastering. The final masters were ready for us in time for the June Solstice.
The release of this album feels like both a culmination and a beginning. Orlando and I have ideas for events, video projects, and other creative opportunities to listen and connect in community. For now, our ideas will stay as seeds in our imagination as we celebrate the completion of this project. We invite you to join us by listening, sharing your experiences, and offering your creative ideas. If the album moves you, please share it with others!