Jeffrey Ethan Lee & Alyssa Carpenter
Jeffrey: Collaborating with Alyssa Carpenter was an illuminating experience. It was also great fun and often surprising. We were creating these audio tracks in Studio A at University of Northern Colorado after some preparatory rehearsals.
Alyssa: When we started working on this I could see that Jeffrey knew exactly what he wanted, and I was so excited to help him with it. I had never done audio work before and it isn't much different from the kind of preparation I do for scene work in acting. I really enjoyed his writing, and I wanted to bring out the beauty of the language to the best of my ability. I found how certain words felt in my body as I thought them and then let that experience come out through my voice.
Jeffrey: When she created the voices of the children for “peace valley elementary school during the Vietnam war,” we usually did multiple takes. She was able to intuit exactly the right tone in ways that made the actual memories in my head come back to life. That was a wonderful experience.
When she created the character Iris for the more dramatic narrative poem, “iris’ painter hears the rain music return (off broadway),” she gave great depth and feeling to the lead character in my poetry book invisible sister. I could imagine and sympathize with the persona more fully from the voice Alyssa brought to the work.
Alyssa: I feel that working with the writer could be difficult if you are not expressing everything they intended, but I think Jeffrey was interested in what I had to say through his work, which I think is telling of his kind and generous character.
Jeffrey: The most challenging collaboration was “air and variations/heretic psalm,” in which each of us read a lyric that I had written and then we interwove those lines as though they were half-lines of a greater poem. This was recorded in stereo so that one could focus more upon one voice or the other. As a musician herself, Alyssa intuited the value of the counterpointing of voices very well, and she was able to bring a certain musicality to her side of the joined voices. The tone and quality of her voice also brought something very beautiful into the work.
Alyssa: I think the "air and variations" was the most challenging, as Jeffrey said, but it was also such a great chance to try something so unique and to see how the final product would sound. We were working on one line at a time and couldn't have known how it would come together. In the end, I was very pleased with the outcome. I just hope I get another chance to work with him.
"air and variations/heretic psalm"
"iris' painter hears the rain"
"peace valley elementary school during the vietnam war"
"Iris' painter hears the rain" and "peace valley valley elementary school during the vietnam war" are from invisible sister (Many Mountains Moving Press, 2004); "air and variations/heretic psalm" is from The Sylf (Sows Ear Poetry Chapbook Prize).
Note from Jeffrey: Noted composer Andrea Clearfield would like to set "air and variations/heretic psalm" to music if I can raise approximately $5,000 for her (here performed by Alyssa Carpenter and me). Interested people could visit her site here: http://www.andreaclearfield.com/. I have known Andrea for many, many years. She is a great musician and a great composer who brings together many traditions in new ways. Interested people could also contact me directly through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information about how to become a contributing part of this collaborative project.
Alyssa Carpenter is from Casper, Wyoming and has her B.A in French and English from the University of Northern Colorado. She has been studying acting in Los Angeles and teaching English at an international school for the past two years. Her credits include voice over, various short films, webisodes, and print work.
Jeffrey Ethan Lee's poetry book, identity papers, was a 2006 Colorado Book Award finalist; visit http://identitypapers.org for samples, audio, video, responses etc. His first poetry book, invisible sister, at http://mmmpress.org/, has samples, audio, reviews, interviews etc.) Lee won the 2002 Sow's Ear Poetry Chapbook prize ($1,000) for The Sylf (2003), created identity papers for Drimala Records, published Strangers in a Homeland (chapbook with Ashland Poetry Press, 2001), and published hundreds of poems, stories and essays in North American Review, Xconnect, Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Many Mountains Moving, Crosscurrents, American Poetry Review, Green Mountain Review, Washington Square. He has a Ph.D. in British Romanticism and an MFA from NYU and has been the publisher, senior poetry editor, and director of Many Mountains Moving since 2007.