I love John Ashbery’s poetry so when I discovered what seemed to be his Twitter account I was happy to see a daily dose of his strange and enigmatic poetry. The tweets were so good that I was also inclined to set one of them to music. On February 4, 2017 at 11:27am @AshberyEbooks sent out the tweet, “Anyway, where threads go. It all goes well”. I felt this text was beautifully ambiguous in its potential meaning. The text was also a perfect metaphor for my creative process which usually involves freely weaving together different kinds of musical “threads”. Often I find that these musical threads truly can go in any direction and it all does seem to go well (assuming the piece gets finished). As I was finishing up the composition I began to grow suspicious of the Ashbery account. It seemed to send out tweets every hour or so, even late into the night. I did a little further research. As it turns out @AshberyEbooks is not John Ashbery. The account is not even a living person. It is, in reality, a Twitter bot. This means some clever computer programmer designed an algorithm to spit out text in the style of the beloved poet. Rather than being horrified by this discovery I was delighted by this fact. I also welcome all the various implications one can draw from the situation of non-humans writing poetry for living humans to ponder. And pondering is encouraged in my piece. The text is also set to music in a reflective and meditative way. The words themselves are deconstructed into their constituent parts. The small bits of language playfully melt into the piano’s sounds and there is sometimes a sense of a new language emerging. Perhaps it is fitting that a robot poet spurred such an entropic mutation to take place. I just hope that Mr. Ashbery also feels that the all has gone well.
Anyway, where threads go. It all goes well. was written for Lucy Dhegrae and was first performed by Lucy Dhegrae and Nathaniel LaNasa (piano) on May 25, 2017 at The Church of the Intercession in New York City.
The recording here is of the premiere.