Bay Area Beats: Composing for the past and future
A lot of people these days hold down multiple jobs just to make ends meet. San Francisco resident Aaron Novik is a musician, a composer, an illustrator, and he works part time at Adobe Books in the Mission District. It’s actually his work at the bookstore that may have had the greatest influence on his latest musical project. The bookstore is more than just a place to buy books; it’s a cultural center for art and music ... as well as a place that some homeless people come to sleep during the day.
Novik found out that some of the people he saw every day at the bookstore were gifted poets. And as he got to know their work, he began to compose songs based on their writings, which ultimately led to his album “Floating World, Volume One.”
In this segment of Bay Area Beats, KALW’s Max Jacobs sat down with Novik in Adobe Books to ask him exactly what it was about this poetry that inspired so much music.
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AARON NOVIK: My name is Aaron Novik and I'm a local clarinetist, bass clarinetist, composer, amateur illustrator, and I work at Adobe Books parttime. I play a lot of music around the city.
You'll listen to my music and maybe it'll make you feel like it's a lost genre from the turn of the 20th century. Sometimes I think of it that way and it's like, I've been thinking more and more about parallel universes from this other project I'm working on and it's like this idea that something could exist that sounds like it's both from the past and the future. You know, you kind of can't really say – where it's not something you've heard before, so you want to say, "Well, that's futuristic, but it's not because it sounds like it could have been in the past."
I think God is an author in the pages of astounding science fiction!
Not being a lyric writer, I wanted to find some poetry or words - just something interesting that I could work with.
...the existence of humanity becomes a set of Jewish jokes told by a Catskill comedian...
I finally realized that a lot of interesting writing was happening at my place of work, Adobe Books, where I met different writers who just had an interesting perspective and colorful background.
...how did existence, a natural fact, become a moral issue?
A poet I started working with was this guy Michael Bernard Loggins, who also comes into the store a lot, and he was from Creativity Explored, which is a place where developmentally disabled adults do artwork. Adobe Books is one of the few places where people aren't really judged so a lot of them come in here. And he comes in all the time and he would share his writing with me and I asked him to bring in a bunch of stuff, just for me to look at, to make songs out of. He gave me like a Walgreens, like one of those plastic bags, just filled with little scraps of paper and notes and drawings and just tons of stuff. He didn't really know what I would want or need so it was really interesting to sift through all of that and find these little gems that he just wrote down. That's why a lot of the songs that I wrote with his writing are really short because there will just be like a tiny couple of sentences – just little jotting downs of his thoughts at the moment.
So many subjects to write about. One, love, two, life, three, understanding, four, brace yourself...
The final poet that I worked with was the most omnipresent in the store that I just didn't think of it for a while. That was Swan, who is this homeless man who comes in here and hangs out all day.
yet deeper, oil drillers, drill. Drill to the bottom...
Now, he was a filmmaker and news reporter, had a family, wife and kids, and he just ended up having to leave that life because he was not in the mental state any more. I'm saying that to kind of precede the thought that well, yes, he's crazy – you could call him that – but, at the same time there is a lot to be gleaned from his perspective. There's a tune on the record called "Earth as Dragon Egg." He was talking about drilling for oil and he uses this allegory of Earth being a giant dragon egg and, if we drill too deep, we're going to crack the egg open and this dragon will come out. I just really liked the imagery in that and the way that he kind of colorfully expounds on this truth. This was way before the incident in the gulf, but since that has happened, I play that song it carries such greater weight for me.
...fare thee well, oh surface gods.
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