LOW VOICE AND PIANO
PETER DICKINSON, composer, writer and pianist, is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Keele, where he set up the Department and its Centre for American Music, and of the University of London. For many years he had a performing career with his sister, mezzo-soprano Meriel Dickinson. There are several CDs of his music available with leading performers including four on Albany Records - Piano Concerto/Outcry/Organ Concerto; Songcycles (Auden, Dylan Thomas, e.e.cummings and John Heath-Stubbs); Rags, Blues & Parodies (Burns, Byron and Stevie Smith); and Pianos Voices and Brass (Emily Dickinson, Heath-Stubbs). Dickinson’s books include The Music of Lennox Berkeley; Marigold: the Music of Billy Mayerl; Copland Connotations: Studies and Interviews; CageTalk: Dialogues with and about John Cage: and Lord Berners: Composer – Writer – Painter.
EXTRAVAGANZAS [1963/69] is a mini-cycle to poems by Gregory Corso (1930-2001), one of the most colourful figures in the American beat generation. Dickinson originally wrote the melodies unaccompanied as models in twelve-note technique for students but later added a piano part which, like many of his larger works, shows his interest in jazz and blues. The first song is one of the sources of his Piano Concerto (1984). The premiere of Extravaganzas was given by Meriel and Peter Dickinson in the Purcell Room at a Park Lane Group concert on 16 October 1969 and the work became a feature of their international recitals and broadcasts together: they have made two recordings.
The poems come from Gasoline, published by City Light Books, San Francisco, in 1956.
The streetsinger is sick
crouched in the doorway, holding his heart.
One less song in the noisy night.
Outside the wall
the aged gardener plants his shears.
A new young man
has come to snip the hedge.
Death weeps because death is human
spending all day in a movie when a child dies.
ON THE WALLS OF A DULL FURNISHED ROOM
I hang old photos of my childhood girls –
With breaking heart I sit, elbow on table,
Chin on hand, studying
the proud eyes of Helen,
the weak mouth of Jane,
the golden hair of Susan.
2 WEIRD HAPPENINGS IN HAARLEM
Four Windmills, acquaintanceships,
were spied one morning eating tulips.
And the entire city flips
screaming: Apocalypse! Apocalypse!
O people! my people!
something weirdly architectural
like a rackety cannibal
came to Haarlem last night
and ate up a canal!
Mrs Lombardi’s month-old son is dead.
I saw it in Rizzo’s funeral parlour,
A small purplish wrinkled head.
They’ve just finished having high mass for it;
They’re coming out now
…wow, such a small coffin!
And ten black Cadillacs to haul it in.
LAST NIGHT I DROVE A CAR
Last night I drove a car
not knowing how to drive
not owning a car
I drove and knocked down
people I loved
…went 120 through one town.
I stopped at Hedgeville
and slept in the back seat
…excited about my new life.