PROGRAMME NOTES

Extravaganzas

Mezzo and piano (1963/69)

Extravaganzas 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 first BBC R3 broadcast was in April 1972.
The poems come from Gasoline, published by City Light Books, San Francisco, in 1956.

THREE
1.
The streetsinger is sick
crouched in the doorway, holding his heart.
One less song in the noisy night.
2.
Outside the wall
the aged gardener plants his shears.
A new young man
has come to snip the hedge.
3.
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
1.
Four Windmills, acquaintanceships,
were spied one morning eating tulips.
Noon
And the entire city flips
screaming: Apocalypse! Apocalypse!
2.
O people! my people!
something weirdly architectural
like a rackety cannibal
came to Haarlem last night
and ate up a canal!

ITALIAN EXTRAVAGANZA
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.

© 2008-17 Peter Dickinson

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