The Voice of Robert Desnos

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Jazz Sensibilities review is available, too.


From the moment I read Robert Desnos, I realized he was writing with the same process as musical improvisations. As I read his life and that of those around him during his creative period , the more I was convinced of this. 

The creative processes of self-abandon, trance, automatic actions, spontaneity, etc. are means by which the artist transcends the “reality” of the six walls that surround us and peers into a new but deeper vision of a sur-reality; one where the “movie screen” that we are all viewing suddenly melts and we are left staring at that which was behind our illusory conception.

Desnos was a master of going into his subconscious, through hypnotic trances and séances, to where he could both see and describe, that which was beyond our normal perception. In words, he described what artists like Kandinsky and Klee ( as well as the surrealist painters of his time ) described in paintings and what composers like Scriabin described in sounds.

It was only natural that improvised music and Desnos’ poetry be fused. During the mid-80s, our musical circle captured the spirit of this idea, yet none of the fruits were ever realized into a recording. However, this idea haunted me for the next 30 years.

Finally, commencing this work became an obsession. Who could do it? I found poets, yet none of them wanted to recite other’s works. I observed people in bars and approached some. Theatre groups and operatic groups were also queried. Lastly, I started reciting a selection during recording sessions and performances.

In March 2016, during a collaboratory period with Italian vocalist Antonella Chionna, I sent the recordings to her. On the same day, I receive a book of her poetry ( I was unaware that she was a writer/ poetess ) and suddenly the pieces fit. A few months later, she arrived in America and we began to fuse Desnos with an improvisation ensemble. Two pieces were done publicly, and one was recorded for the CD Rylesonable. Here is a video of Pat’s performance, with Richard Poole, of “Spaces Inside Sleep”:


In September 2016, I spent time in Italy, and brought Antonella into a studio without any agenda. On the second track, we decided to try The Voice of Robert Desnos. We both looked at each other and knew what was next – A collection of Desnos’ poetry. The second session was booked and all the texts were in hand. One take for each poem was all that we needed. The results are this CD.

We would like to thank Marilyn Crispell, Gianni Lenoci, and Mimmo Galizia for their support and advice that helped realize this work.