Ursula K. Le Guin & Todd Barton - Music And Poetry Of The Kesh LP
Deluxe spot printed jacket with illustrations from the book Always Coming Home, a facsimile of the original lyric sheet, liner notes by Moe Bowstern, a download code and a limited edition letterpressed bookmark. Edition of 1000 copies.
Music and Poetry of the Kesh is the documentation of an invented Pacific Coast peoples from a far distant time, and the soundtrack of famed science fiction author, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home. In the novel, the story of Stone Telling, a young woman of the Kesh, is woven within a larger anthropological folklore and fantasy.
The ways of the Kesh were originally presented in 1985 as a five hundred plus page book accompanied with illustrations of instruments and tools, maps, a glossary of terms, recipes, poems, an alphabet (Le Guin’s conlang, so she could write non-English lyrics), and with early editions, a cassette of “field recordings” and indigenous song. Le Guin wanted to hear the people she’d imagined; she embarked on an elaborate process with her friend Todd Barton to invoke their spirit and tradition.
For Music and Poetry of the Kesh, the words and lyrics are attributed to Le Guin as composed by Barton, an Oregon-based musician, composer and Buchla synthesist (the two worked together previously on public radio projects). But the cassette notes credit the sounds and voices to the world of the Kesh, making origins ambiguous. For instance, “The River Song” description reads, “The prominent rhythm instrument is the doubure binga, a set of nine brass bowls struck with cloth-covered wooden mallets, here played by Ready.”
The songs of Kesh are joyful, soothing and meditative, while the instrumental works drift far past the imaginary lands. “Heron Dance” is an uplifting first track, featuring a Wéosai Medoud Teyahi (made from a deer or lamb thigh bone with a cattail reed) and the great Houmbúta(used for theatre and ceremony). “A Music of the Eighth House” sends gossamer waves of the faintest sounds to “float on the wind.” Like the languages invented in the vocal work of Anna Homler, Meredith Monk, and Elizabeth Fraser, the Kesh songs and poems play with the shape of voice.
The Music and Poetry of the Kesh cassette was meant to accompany and enhance the experience of reading Always Coming Home. Presented in this edition as a long-playing album, where only traces of the book linger (the jacket offers some of Le Guin’s illustration, and a letterpressed bookmark featuring the the narrative modes of western civilization and the Kesh valley is included), the music alone breaking the silence of what might be. It can transport—offering a landscape for imagining a future homecoming. One in which we are balanced, peaceful, and tend to the earth and its creatures.
A1 Heron Dance
A2 Twilight Song
A4 Dragonfly Song
A5 A Homesick Song
A6 The Willows
B1 Long Singing
B2 The Quail Song
B3 A Teaching Poem
B4 A River Song
B5 Sun Dance Poem
B6 A Music Of The Eighth House