Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, John Coltrane ("Trane's Ride" by Lisa B [Lisa Bernstein])

Thanks to John Coltrane on his birthday. May his music inspire us always!

"Trane's Ride" is a poem I composed in the imagined voice of the great saxophone player and composer John Coltrane. (At the start of the recording I say, "I heard Trane say...." Later in the poem I refer in Trane's imagined voice to "Him," that is, God.) 

I listened to John Coltrane's music in utero, as my father was a big fan and then a friend of the humble master. I kept listening ever since. The power, depth, and beauty of his music, the intensity of his unique voice in continual struggle, yearning, and discovery, profoundly affected me as a person and an artist.

I wrote this poem when I was teaching undergraduate poetry writing at San Francisco State University during my two-year term as Associate Director of The Poetry Center there. That half-time position was itself split into two: quarter-time as Associate Director (doing grant-writing, publicity, and administrative work) and quarter-time as a lecturer in creative writing helping folks learn to write poetry. I loved it.

In every class, we did writing exercises together. I usually did the exercise along with the students. One assignment was to write in the voice of another person. I chose Coltrane. Unlike my usual writing approach, as I was composing the poem I heard the silent bar lines of a song passing underneath the words that streamed from my pen. Later, of course, I realized that song was "Naima." 
In 1993, I received the rare permission of Alice Coltrane, then owner of Jowcol Publishing, the copyright owner of "Naima," to record the poem with "Naima" as an instrumental background. It first appeared on my 1994 EP "Be the Word," next on my 1999 CD "Free Me for the Joy," and finally on my 2009 CD of new and remixed/remastered tracks, "The Poetry of Groove." 

This track is one of the few recorded Coltrane compositions with a legally permitted verbal element. 


The poem "Trane's Ride" copyright 
© 1993 by Lisa Bernstein. 

The composition "Naima" copyright © 1959 by John Coltrane (Jowcol Music, BMI). 

Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) - lead spoken vocal
Sandy Griffith and Alice Peacock - background vocals
James Richard - drum and bass programming
Rock Hendricks - tenor sax
Bob Mocarsky - keyboard
Dave Yamasaki - guitar
Jim (James) Gardiner - engineering, production, all other music, and mastering
Vince Wojno - mixing
Pajama Studios, Oakland, Calif. - recording studio

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What Diabetes Taught Me As A Creative Person

More than 30 years ago, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (it used to be called juvenile diabetes; I wasn't a juvenile when I got it, though). It's been a challenge and a teacher.
pink writing journal from lisabmusic

Here's some of what I've learned from diabetes that is crucially helpful in my work (and play) as a poet, singer, and creative person:

1. It's never perfect.

2. What works one day doesn't work another.

3. Conversely, what doesn't work one day does work another. So keep a record of your previous drafts/approaches, stand back and assess context, and watch the trend.

4. Your body is not you; it's your instrument, lens, and primary companion. So take care of it.

5. Allow variation. To quote my vocal coach Jane Sharp, that's where the beauty is.

6. There's always more room for pleasure.

7. There's always a place for discipline. If not daily, almost daily. By that I just mean: "do your practice," "follow your plan." But see 5. and 6.

8. Use the technology that feels easy to adopt and manage.

9. Write stuff down. You won't always remember it.

10. Meditate.

11. Mortality is your friend. It makes the moment sweeter.

12. Sing. This goes for everyone. Admit it, you want to. Follow the lead of the angels, the animals, the birds, the insects, and the babies. It's the grown-up human way too. And it heals.

copyright © 2015 Lisa Bernstein