And one more thing...

There might be some personal nonsense in here, too...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Eureka? Eu-betcha!


~ State Motto of California

In the Original Unity of the First Thing lies the Secondary Cause of All Things, with the Germ of their Inevitable Annihilation.

~ from Eureka, Edgar Allan Poe

I recently attended the Philadelphia presentation of The Raven — A Poe Fest, put on by Lyric Fest.  The talent was excellent, rising above what was, IMHO, not very interesting material for the most part.  Though generally disappointed by the selected pieces, I did get three takeaways from the experience.

One:  There's a dearth of vocal music drawn directly and solely from Poe's words.  I hesitate to admit it, but I find Poe's poetry more a sledge than a stiletto; evocative, but unsubtle and superficial in its wringing of hands, akin to the exaggerated emoting of many silent films.  Some of it qualifies as doggerel.  Perhaps other composers felt the same and shunned setting the text.  Or, as suggested by Lyric Fest's Suzanne DuPlantis, his poems are already musical.  [Blog author looks at The Bells and rolls his eyes...]  In any case, Lyric Fest commissioned music for this very reason.  (For my money, Joel Puckett's The Greatest Evil — Six Years was the highlight of the program.)  I wish I'd known of the call for work — I'd throw my hat into that ring.  But this dearth is great news — it improves the odds that Poe-related work finds a stage.  Usher isn't the only Poe-inspired work I intend, so yea!

B:  There remains a wealth of Poe material, especially correspondence, of which I know nothing, all ripe for exploitation.  I've been looking to Poe's letters for inspiration and text to keep the libretto faithful.  I found enough material at The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore to construct what is arguably as authentic a letter from Usher as Poe moght have penned himself, as virtually every phrase has been lifted verbatim from Poe's personal correspondence.  But that well has been bled — most letters available on the site were about money and publishing, and I need far more text of the deeply personal variety.  Mr. Puckett's selected text was a fragment from a letter I've not seen, and damn if it wasn't exactly the "voice" I imagine for Usher's more melancholy moments.  I knew the material available at tEAPSoB isn't exhaustive, but I hadn't realized what I was missing.  Thank you, Mr. Puckett!
 So I jumped into Google with both hands to find additional sources.  There are some small private and public collections here and there, a few online, and a rare book or two of collected letters.  Guess it means a trip to the Free Library.  (No problem — I need to study some scores!)  But along the way I stumbled upon a work — a magnum opus, actually — which was also off my radar, despite it being what Poe (and others) considered the consummation of his talent and oeuvre: Eureka.  The quote above will without doubt find its way into Usher's words, as will more, I expect.  Seems I've been a victim of "Greatest Hits Syndrome", or GHS, ignorant of the larger Poe universe familiar to scholars and true devotées.  This, fortunately, can be remedied.

[EDIT: I've since discovered that the letter in question is indeed here, among others at tEAPSoB.  It appears I've not been diligent.  I must have faded after seeing so many succinct letters of inquiry and pleas for loans.  If you're interested in the text treated by Mr. Puckett, look for itemized point #10...]

III:  The combination of Philly Funsavers and Ticketleap is a ridiculous rip-off, scandalously so — in the parlance of South Philly, it's a disgrace, blatant false advertising.  Funsavers started with the "1/2 off" rate of $12.50, then wanted a $4.25 surcharge per ticket.  The math: that surcharge is 34% of the ask.  (A random search of other Funsavers offerings show similar surcharges, like $5 for a $17 ticket.  So no, this wasn't an isolated incident or restricted to this artist or venue.)  And I would have bought it anyway, not knowing better, but they stopped selling tickets at 9am on the day of the concert and I missed my window.  So I went to the Lyric Fest site, and found the original ticket price was $20, not $25.  In the end, the advertised half price ticket totaling $16.75 was 84% of the real deal, and at least 34% of that wouldn't go to the artists.  Gawds, I know I sound like a curmudgeon — but I'm right, consarnit, and they can expect a strongly-worded letter and threat of legal action!  Look.  If you're desperate to save a few dollars, use them or, ideally, look elsewhere.  But if you're more interested in both supporting the artists AND not supporting lousy businesses, avoid Philly Funsavers and, if you can, avoid Ticketleap.  Don't give these butt-munches your money.  (My apologies to anyone who eats butts and felt disparaged by the association.)

Now — to work!