Light & Music

Last evening I was privileged to be part of a Weidner Philharmonic Orchestra event held at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts (the place is dazzling). The event was called “Women’s Work,” and the orchestra played four separate pieces by women composers.

Interloper that I am, I was asked to be a small part of the performance by reading Ellen Kort’s poem “Light,” on which the first piece of the night is partially based (Jennifer Higdon’s Light). Then I sat down on the stage, with the orchesta (!), while they played the piece.

I have never had such an experience. Yes, I could joke about having the best seat in the house (I guess I just did), but being that close to the music was, physically, something slippery in the hands of description. My skin was literally vibrating, which I could feel and notice, and that set my mind down a path and sensory experience I’ve not had before. I felt like I had brought my body along as a guest, experiencing a physicality to music of which I was simply unaware. Short version: sitting on a stage with a performing orchestra will really blow your hair back. In fact, here is an actual photo of me seated on stage:

Before I get to the AI art connection, I also want to praise to Michelle McQuade Dewhirst, who is a brilliant contemporary composer who I just happen to work with. One of the pieces performed was her Out of Dark Waters, This, and the “this” was incredible. If you want to get a taste of contemporaily composed work, you should check out Michelle; her work is fresh and surprising.

So, the poem I was asked to read was “Light,” by Ellen Kort. Ellen was a poet of elegant intelligence and she was also just a warm, wonderful person. She was the first Poet Laureate of Wisconsin, named so by former Governor Tommy Thompson, and that itself if perfect. Below is the poem, along with rendered images from the three AI art generators I have been playing with. In all cases, I simply used the poem text as the prompt.

by Ellen Kort

Light is a warming fire 
into a thousand pieces
when moon walks
across water
Light hangs for a moment 
on the brink of darkness 
comes through
the smallest crack
under the door
leans against snow
Light is a weaver
braiding early morning trees 
a raindrop shattering grass 
candlelight made from stars 
Light is the story
of who we are
our long shadow
making the journey home
Midjourney rendering of Ellen Kort’s “Light”
Dall-E rendering of Ellen Kort’s “Light”
Stable Diffusion: four renderings of Ellen Kort’s “Light”

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