Landscaping for Privacy: May 30 in Eve Beglarian’s a book of days

OK, let’s drive, let’s tour the hydrangeas
And the lawns. What could be more suggestive
Than a grassy mattress?

—Linda Norton

We have no hydrangea blooms in our yard as of yet, but the rhododendrons were peak this week. Then, by lucky happenstance on a fine spring day, after driving INTO New York City while others were escaping for more pastoral environs, we ran across Eve Beglarian‘s delicate setting of a Linda Norton poem, “Landscaping for Privacy.”

Beglarian wrote of the piece:

Landscaping for Privacy was written in August-September 1995 for twisted tutu (Kathleen Supové, keyboards and Eve Beglarian, vocals) while we were in residence at the Bellagio Center in Italy under the auspices of the Rockefeller Foundation. The poem is by Linda Norton. The keyboard part was written to be played using the arpeggiator function of a synth keyboard, sort of like a new convertible with an automatic transmission. I tried to capture the fragile elation urban types feel at driving out of the city on a beautiful Saturday morning in spring. [cite]

The poem begins like this:

The hedges along the parkway, the trees, the trees–
They sashay, they nearly genuflect, they breathe.
It’s good to breathe; it’s good to get away in summer,
It makes you feel clean. [cite]

And some favorite lines of mine are these:

And I forget,
What do people do with themselves in the suburbs?
The streets are empty, the lawns unused. If I lived here,
I’d spread out, I’d hang a hammock, I’d keep sheep,
I’d dig a well. I’d build hummocks to my own
Specs, I’d be positively pastoral.

But you’re right, of course. Of course, you’re right.
I couldn’t keep sheep, there’s probably an ordinance,
They’d shoot me for ruining property values. [cite]

The setting is part of Beglarian’s ongoing project, “a book of days.” She writes:

The twelve calendar pages . . . are links to the structure I have created for a long-term project I conceived in 2001, a book of days of text/music/visuals, one for each day of the year.

I think of these pieces as “mulling over” pieces, made in the spirit of commonplace books, collections of found thought that please me, and of medieval books of days. The pieces generally begin from found text for which I write music, and some are then illuminated (by video rather than medieval miniatures.)

I think I’ve unwittingly been working on this project pretty much since I first started writing music in the early 80’s. My hope is that over time, you will be able to experience this book of days not only as a quotidian and seasonal cycle, but also as a record of one life lived over how ever many years I end up being granted. [cite]

To sign up to receive “a book of days” in your inbox, click here. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Happy end of May.

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Listening List

Landscaping for Privacy, Eve Beglarian (1995)

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Credits: With thanks to Eve Beglarian for her kind permission to post the music and text. The photographs, such as they are, are mine.

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