“Dissolving” words into melodies [Neruda vs. Gustavson]

by Maha Al Aswad

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda

When poetry inspires music, the outcome is priceless.

Neruda‘s ‘Thinking, Tangling Shadows‘ peom has inspired the American composer Mark Gustavson to compose an awesome piece of work. He called it  ‘Dissolving images‘, a part of my favorite verse in the poem: ‘Thinking, freeing birds, dissolving images, burying lamps‘.

Neruda Published this poem in Spanish in 1924 when he was 19.  65 years later, in 1989, Gustavson composed his piece inspired by Neruda’s poem.

Thinking, Tangling Shadows by Paplo Neruda,  translated by  W. S. Merwin

Thinking, tangling shadows in the deep solitude.
You are far away too, oh farther than anyone.
Thinking, freeing birds, dissolving images,
burying lamps.

Belfry of fogs, how far away, up there!
Stifling laments, milling shadowy hopes,
taciturn miller,
night falls on you face downward, far from the city.

Your presence is foreign, as strange to me as a thing.
I think, I explore great tracts of my life before you.
My life before anyone, my harsh life.
The shout facing the sea, among the rocks,
running free, mad, in the sea-spray.
The sad rage, the shout, the solitude of the sea.
Headlong, violent, stretched towards the sky.

You, woman, what were you there, what ray, what vane
of that immense fan? You were as far as you are now.
Fire in the forest! Burn in blue crosses.
Burn, burn, flame up, sparkle in trees of light.
It collapses, crackling. Fire. Fire.
And my soul dances, seared with curls of fire.
Who calls? What silence peopled with echoes?
Hour of nostalgia, hour of happiness, hour of solitude.
Hour that is mine from among them all!
Megaphone in which the wind passes singing.
Such a passion of weeping tied to my body.

Shaking of all the roots,
attack of all the waves!
My soul wandered, happy, sad, unending.

Thinking, burying lamps in the deep solitude.

Who are you, who are you?

Mark Gustavson

Mark Gustavson

Now after reading the poem you need to do two things. Listen to the music record alone, then go back to the poem and read it slowly while the music plays.  Trying to figure out which verse inspired what part in the music is a worthwhile fascinating experience.

The record comes in 15:51 minutes, and Piano is the only musical instrument. You will find several Gustavson records on the far bottom left of the web page. Dissolving images is listed first on top. Click here to listen.

You can visit Gustavson’s website to know more about him and listen to his other works.

You can read all Pablo Neruda’s works here, and read more about him here.

There is a previous post on music inspired by poetry: [Lorca Vs. Eli Mardock].