Building on the rock of one hundred years of prophetic poetry
The prompt to write this news item was a mid morning conversation with Lol Cooper, ‘The Lol Cooper Band’ leader and director: about the seemingly rapid passage of time since the completion of the band’s last album ‘Soul to Sun’ as we pondered on just how long it had been since the album’s release. As often happens with this band synchronicity put in an appearance, and the day, the 2nd December 2023, turned out to be the first anniversary of the ‘Soul to Sun’ launch at New Mills Art Theatre, an atmospheric venue in the Peak District. The year 2022 was the 100th anniversary of the Art Theatre opening its’ doors, and they marked this with a performance of the musical ‘Oliver’ featuring Paul Bowers. The songs on ‘Soul to Sun’ were used to put ‘A Scapeshifter’ (poem in the book ‘Soul to Sun’) to music, with a thirty six minute video on the band’s YouTube channel, where each of the songs on the album can be heard backing up parts of the poem.
‘A Scapeshifter’ is a poem looking back; predominately yet not only, one hundred years, and sometimes more, to the publication of a number of important literary works and events, including ‘The Wasteland’ by T S Elliot, the discovery of the KV62 burial chamber of Tutankhamun, and the doors opening to ‘The Institute For the Harmonious Development of Man’ at the Chateau Le Prieure, Fontainebleau-Avon, near Paris. As the band have now commenced work on the third album, it also seems coincidental, that the song they are currently recording is called ‘Time Flies’ as it exponentially does as we grow older. It seemed then like an interesting idea to go back again a hundred years once more, and take a look at what was going on in the way of poetry and connection through 1923, especially as the music LCB are known for has been coined by the phrase ‘Poetry Rock,’ and with the unfolding of process in this genre, the band have an interest in verifying the ontological, and epistemological features of events and situations where we miss the mark, failing to see the potentiality of the invisible within the visible, in relation to the enigma of time, and its connection to moments of meaningful coincidence: and not to forget of course, that 1923 was the year following the 1922 publication of the anthropological book written by Bronislaw Malinowski; ‘Argonauts of the Western Pacific.’
First up then, and dovetailing with the title of this news item, is ‘The Prophet,’ a book of 26 prose poetry fables, published on the 23rd September 1923, by Alfred A. Knopf, and written by the Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran. ‘The Prophet’ has been translated into over 100 languages making it not only one of the most translated books in history, but also one of the best selling books of all time. Gibran Khalil was born on epiphany 1883, burned bright, and died of too much to drink on the 10th April 1931 aged 48. In Orwellian fashion, his publisher died in 1984 on the 11th August, a day when Sebastian Coe became the only man to successfully defend his Olympic 1500m title, and Carl Lewis equalled Jessie Owens feat of winning four gold medals. It was also the day when Ronald Reagan quipped in a television broadcast warm up, later leaked, that he had signed legislation to outlaw Russia, and bombing would begin in five minutes. Look back on that day and make your mind up; track race to arms race, and many a true word said in jest, and all that sort of thing. Ah well, Or-well, “Polemic, polemic” as the poem ‘A Scapeshifter’points out.
Next up is ‘Cane;’ published by Boni and Liveright in 1923 and written by the noted Harlem Renaissance author Jean Toomer, who was born on the same day as one of the three Miranda’s that feature in ‘A Scapeshifter.’ Jean Toomer was an American pupil of G I Gurdjieff and an associate of A R Orage who was editor of the New Age, which was credited as being a major influence on literature and the arts in its hey day between 1907 and 1922. The magazine was sold in 1922 by A R Orage who went on to become an ambassador, translator and fund raiser in the United States for G I Gurdjieff. Jean Toomer came to know G I Gurdjieff through A R Orage’s New York City Group. Jean Toomer’s ‘Cane’ has become a classic of modernism, and is structured in a series of vignettes, in the form of prose, play type passages and poetry. The book inspired the Gil Scott-Herron song ‘Cane.’
Moving swiftly on now to the New England Yankee Robert Frost, who was given his break, and lived for a time in old England. In 1923 his book ‘New Hampshire’ was published, featuring poems such as ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ and ‘Fire and Ice.’ There is a documentary about Robert Frost on YouTube called: Robert Frost interview + poetry reading (1952) from 75 years ago, which is still relevant and vibrant, and conveys an energy of the man’s poetry; “great talents ripen late sometimes” as he was 78 years old at the time of the interview. This short film is around half an hour in duration and is both entertaining and contains some gems of wisdom, which in the contemporary world are becoming as uncommon as common sense.
Mentioned above are three creative works of 1923 which appear to have stood the test of time, and though a hundred years doesn’t quite measure up to the longevity thus far of Homer, Dante, or Shakespeare, never the less; in an age when most written works are still born or die in infancy, a hundred years is still quite something. To the three mentioned from 1923 we can add another book, which can work with all of those and for all of us; ‘I and Thou’ by ‘Martin Buber’ which begins counter intuitively, and is not easy to understand on a first reading, but like ‘The Wasteland’ by T S Elliot or the works of Ben Johnson, it was probably not meant to be easily read or understood. An informative explanation of Martin Buber and his ‘I and Thou’ can be found at Eric Dodson Lectures on YouTube. Like the Robert Frost interview and reading it lasts about half an hour and is a good introduction.
Anyhow, the work of LCB goes on towards the next album, with three poetic rock songs so far moving towards mastering, and one in the throws of being recorded. Like ‘Poetry and Fairytales’ and ‘Soul to Sun’ the third album will again be filmed, and put into a book, to arrive at our aim of completing a trilogy of albums in book format, containing a CD and DVD for a tangible legacy; just in case the clouds are blown away and scattered into evaporation by the wind bag of contemporary life.
If you want to understand a person, said Napoleon, have a look what was going on in the world when they were twenty. This quote has also be attributed to the historian G M Young, and in terms of the bands history for example, this can be applied to the writer of ‘A Scapeshifter’ who in 1984 at the age of twenty was writing and performing songs which the following year would be recorded in Cavalier studios, where the owner of the studio and sound engineer was Lol Cooper. One of these songs ‘On Parade’ can be found on the web site ‘Hanging Around With Musicians; do you get the thread, and the connections: from the moments that can connect us with eternity? This was where I was in 1984, preparing to record the demos in 1985, and since then the time has indeed flown. The recordings from Cavalier Studios in Stockport still stand up, but with the passage of time, the group of people in LCB, picked out like the pieces in a puzzle by Lol Cooper, who passed through Cavalier in days gone by, and who over the last few years have been asked back by Lol, to join and play with the Lol Cooper Band, with the generous and open invitation to express themselves, the current line up and their artistic expression, under his direction has soared to new heights of accomplishment and originality; “art for arts sake” as a line in a song from a studio across the way said back in the day. So if any of this is of interest? Check out the songs and the poems on the band web site and YouTube channel, and if you like what you see and hear, you can order the first two books through the web site, and so assist the band in their trilogy quest. Or! You can buy the box set of three when the new album has been recorded and filmed, but keep in mind that the more of the first two books we are able to sell, the quicker we will be able to complete the third album and put the box set together.
Thank you for reading this, and we hope that if you have the time to take in the LCB New Musical Experience, that you enjoy it. After all, the spirit of joy is the thing worth living for.