The bell jar

The bell jar: A Sylvia Plath-poem sampled.

Besides the writing of our own material, on a regular basis we also put the words of known writers or poets to music.
In the hope that a musical context is able to make the words even more powerful. Or sometimes merely because certain poetry,
next to its literal meaning, already carries a distinctive melody or compelling rhythm within, begging to be translated to music:
words that silently -and then louder and louder still- start to sing when reading them.

The poem Love letter by Sylvia Plath (1960) is an excellent example of this:
In this poem, Plath -who tends to be rather melancholy- celebrates love with an unprecedented joy and pureness.
The poem almost bursts at the seams: it sparkles and it floats, it sings and bites.
The longing seems endless, with thoughts and feelings constantly flowing through each other.

Especially the latter aspect has been our starting-point.
We therefore have not put the entire poem to music, but have chosen to "sample" it:
Some passages we left intact, but these are crossed by sentences that in the original poem can be found on a different position.
Sometimes a single sentence comes back, sometimes only a single words returns.
Adversely, other sentences or passages are deleted altogether.
Through this method, the poem is first disassembled and then put together again in a complete different sequence and composition.
In the new construction, the three voices in the verses express the different feelings or forms of being in love.

Next, Plath's words flow over into a text line of our own ("Somebody's favorite boy is coming home tonight"), which expresses the longing.
This line is based on, or drawn from, CocoRosie's South 2nd (Noah's ark, 2005),
in which exactly the opposite situation is described (the loss of a loved one).

The bell jar

(first voice)
Not easy to state the change you made.
If I'm alive now, then I was dead,
Though like a stone, unbothered by it,
Staying put according to habit.
You didn't just toe me an inch, no-
Nor leave me to set my small bald eye
Skyward again, without hope, of course,
Of apprehending blueness, or stars.

(second voice)
Tree and stone glittered, without shadows.
My finger-length grew lucent as glass.
I started to bud like a March twig:
An arm and a leg, an arm, a leg
From stone to cloud, so I ascended.
Now I resemble a sort of god
Floating through the air in my soul-shift
Pure as a pane of ice.

It's a gift.

(third voice)
And I slept on like a bent finger.
Cheeks alighting each moment to melt
Tears froze and I wasn't fooled: I knew you at once.

Somebody's favourite boy is coming home tonight