The theme of the current Walk My World is the Heroic Journey, and it reminded me of this project that I did years ago with my sixth graders after reading The Lightning Thief and our immersion into mythological stories. We used Google Maps to map out the stories and then viewed them in Google Earth, too.
I am working on a mapping project as a way to document what I have been doing for Walk My World. I know there are a few more learning events to go (we just slipped into the Hero one), but I feel I need to do this digital documentation now. This poem/podcast is an overarching theme for my portfolio.
I don’t know if this worked as I wanted it to work … but I was playing with the theme of mirrors for Walk My World and wanted to write a short Poem for Two Voices, performed as a video mirror.
Here’s how I did it:
I wrote the poem (well, yeah). I was working on the continued theme of identity.
I set up my iPad video and recorded me reading the first side of the poem, with my head turned. I had some trouble reading, and finding the red “record” button. It took quite a few tries.
Then, I reversed myself, and read the second part of the poem. Again, red button trouble. But even more difficult was the pacing of saying the words of the poem. This second part took quite some time, as I kept stumbling into the words of the first part. I never got it perfect. Just close enough.
I used an app called PicPlayPost to create the video collage. I like this app for projects like this, as it allows you to mesh video and images. Here, I wanted a simple view: the mirrored self, reading a poem together. The line down the middle of the collage worked nicely for this.
The Learning Event for Walk My World this week has been “mirrors” and it had me remembering the concept of the mirror/palindrome poems, where the poem reads the same backwards and forwards. I’ve been trying my hand at them a bit.
First, I tried poems about writing and music. A key element for these poems is the use of punctuation to create pauses one way that don’t exist the other way, and the center line as a bridge between the sections.
Then, yesterday, I had this idea of taking the mirror image even further. I used an online site that will remix text, allowing you to create text written forward and render it backwards. I also wondered how it would sound, so I used another site that allows you to record your voice and then turns the audio in reverse.
The theme of the recent Walk My World Learning Event is “dreams.” I don’t often remember my sleep dreams at night. But thinking about the theme of dreams had me remembering this: my very first song that I ever recorded. I was in my teens, and my friend and I had a cheap two-track recorder and a little Casio keyboard, plus a guitar (we used it for bass, too, if I remember correctly). We had to keep combining tracks and layering them over one another. It was very complicated. (Today, Audacity or Garageband offers easier options but you don’t have to think about it as much, either.)
It’s a little embarrassing to hear it now on the Interwebz, and to share it out, but it is a bit of a memory road trip, too. I was just beginning to write songs — this may have been the first or second song that I ever wrote in a complete form and shared with my childhood friend, a drummer. You can tell by the words that I was moving from teenage poetry into songwriting. I had just taught myself how to play guitar, too, as I am a saxophone player. We recorded Follow That Dream as a lark, to see if we could do it, and then realized that we both liked the recording process, tinkering with sounds, and spent the rest of the summer making songs. (Although everything is so tinny in those sessions, because we had these little cheap Radio Shack microphones and the two-track recorder.)
I don’t know if can keep it up but I am trying to do a Zeega-a-day before the site closes up to the world on making new Zeegas. Yesterday, Ian O’Byrne posted a wonderful blog post, reflecting on the latest Learning Event for Walk My World that had to do with totems and identity. I remixed Ian (who facilitates Walk my World with Greg) by taking some of his insights and moving them into a remix Zeega.
It’s taken me a few days to really think about a “totem” that captures the essence of my identity. This is part of our explorations at Walk My World, and the idea for this learning activity is to consider a representation of self, something that connects you to who you are.
I have been honking out notes on this particular tenor saxophone for more than 30 years. Although in childhood, I had aspirations of becoming a professional musician, that plan never came to be. I did attend high school summer programs that immersed me deeply in music and even spent a year in a music program in college. But it was clear that I didn’t have the focus and intensity (maybe dedication), nor the innate talent, to succeed in a very difficult field filled with amazing musicians and not a whole lot of job opportunities.
And yet, I still play music with my saxophone. Each week, I gather with my bandmates in Duke Rushmore and we play for two hours. A few times a year, we gig out. I have a gig coming up in a few weeks, in fact, and we are working on our set list for that night. I’ll never claim to be a great saxophone player, and my ability remains fairly limited. I play because I love the act of making music, and my saxophone is one way in (the guitar is another, although that is primarily for songwriting).
Music continues to enrich my soul each week, each year, and I find some deep connection with the old Martin saxophone.
Plenty of times, I have thought: I wish I had a Selmer, not this old tenor. The saxophone can be a bit moody at times, and it has a rich deep bottom but the top of the scales are a little thin. It might be me. Or it might be the two of us — the saxophone and I. Still, I strap it on to play and it feels comfortable, like a blanket you pull over you, night after night. You know how it feels. That’s how I am with this old Martin.
We know each other.
And when I think of how many turns life has taken, there’s something to be said about some consistency. I am happily married, with a family, but that saxophone has seen me through some other, turbulent times. There were years when the sax collected dust in the closet. Still, I would pull it out and play now and then, getting lost in the music, working through some emotions that words (spoken and/or written) could not articulate. Allowing me to make music just for myself is a gift this saxophone has given me over the decades.
The current Learning Event for Walk My World is to explore the concept of a “totem” which is an object that connects you to your past, your culture, your family, your sense of self. I’m still thinking of the object but that thinking had me remembering the apartment complex and neighborhood that I grew up in. I used the Paper App to sketch out a Memory Map of where I spent my childhood.
I left out a lot, I realized, but then maps are always filtered experiences, right? The tree fort, the Big Rock (left over from glacier times, or so we were always told), the river, the woods and the bog were all central elements to growing up for me. Alas, the woods and bog are now covered in housing developments, and I did not put the giant fallow farmer’s field in the map, either, which is also now nothing but suburban houses as far as the eye can see.
It’s been years (maybe a decade) since I went back to this neighborhood, and I don’t feel any strong urge to do it now. The Memory Map here helps situate me, and reminds me of stories (falling in the river during an ice storm; getting bonked on the head by a hammer while standing under the tree fort; playing ice hockey on the bog in winter; having crabapple wars in fall) that cling to me as personal history.
Yesterday, I shared out how I remixed Identityby Julio Noboa Polanco and made a new poem from Polanco’s words. Today, I take a step forward into remix, by using my poem and a video version of Identity, weaving them together via Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker. The result is a mix of words and images and sound.
In one of the learning cycles for Walk My World, we’ve been asked to read and think about two poems — Tupak Shakur’s The Rose That Grew From Concrete (actually, a song lyric, right?) and Identity by Julio Noboa Polanco. So much gets done with Tupak’s metaphor (amid some complaints that it is probably a bit too obvious), so I cast my eyes to Polanco. I have not read the Identity poem before, and thought I might try to deconstruct and then reconstruct the words into my own poetry remix. (I hope Polanco won’t mind).
I found myself focusing on some key phrases, including “breaking through the surface of stone,” which I found very evocative. Taking the words of the poem, and them moving words and phrases around, with the concept of keeping the theme intact but making it into something new, this remixed poem is what emerged for me. It’s still about identity, about being an individual, but I tightened up the stanzas and found my own voice inside Polanco’s lines. That what remix is all about …