I am not a natural rap fan, but I am always impressed by people who do it with intelligence. Words are words after all and there is a history of rap arguably as old as the G&S nightmare song in Iolanthe, but certainly going back to Edith Sitwell and William Walton’s “Façade”, a series of sound poems or Klangdichtung. Sitwell simply called them an “entertainment”. This nonsense incantation is the stuff of magic and religion. With my own interest in Edward Lear, it is not perhaps surprising that I should be a fan of Façade!
Sitwell first performed Façade standing behind a painted curtain and speaking through a papier-mâché megaphone, the “Sengerphone”. Noel Coward hated it.
I did the 1951 version of Façade in a concert a few years ago and have always thought how well it would animate! The rapidly morphing images would lend themselves to gloriously anarchic animation. The concert version is much briefer than the revised 1977 version and Walton’s music is tremendous. It is, however, fiendishly difficult to remember all the words because the whole piece is predicated on nonsense. But great fun.
Below is my version of the Cecil Beaton portrait from late in her life. I suppose this was Beaton’s take on the famous triple portrait of King Charles. It was all done with her head poking out of bits of torn paper. Very interesting.
At the time, her personality was probably more important than her poetry, but I think if it is considered in the context of the modern rap movement, Façade becomes much more significant.
I saw Daniel Radcliffe rap the “Alphabet Aerobics”. Really very impressive.
Here is a link which I hope Youtube does not remove:
Meanwhile, I urge you to follow Miron Fyodorov, now known as “Oxxxymiron” whose work, though so far in Russian, is clearly clever and punchy. Heavily influenced by Grime, (and better than Guf) he is very keen on the Rap-fighting thing and has some bookings next year in Canada when he promises to do something in English. Meanwhile, he is writing his third album.
Here is a song from his second Album “Gorgorod” which tells a story through a series of rap pieces. This song was, I think, censored by the TV screening. I was in the audience (the show was the Russian equivalent to the Graham Norton show, or The late late show with James Corden in the US) and afterwards the host of the show, Ivan Urgant I think, gave me a signed T-shirt asking me publicly (to much mirth from the rest of the Russian-speaking audience) whether (a) I spoke any russian at all, and (b)if I understood what was going on. I confessed that I had not the slightest idea but that I was a dutiful member of the audience and I knew my job was to laugh and applaud. It was clear, anyway, that Miron was in complete control!