Hello! Whatever path brought you here, I am glad you made it! I’m Thomas Beavitt and global village bard is the artistic programme I founded. Here you will find not only my own work, but also that co-authored and produced with my various collaborators: translators, singers, dancers, arrangers, musicians, graphic artists, poets, composers, producers and more.
The main idea behind global village bard is that art – creativity, what we think our life is all about, etc. – is necessarily structured around a core activity. In this case, the core activity is writing and translating songs and poetry and performing them at concerts, festivals, various get-togethers and… these days, increasingly… online. However, as you will see, the core activity spawns a wide variety of additional activities providing opportunities for others to make their own unique creative contribution.
Although I am a native English speaker, I live in Russia and speak Russian daily. I am constantly fascinated by the music of language and how this is revealed through the act of verse translation. This in turn seems to stimulate all kind of visualisations and creations featuring other peoples’ unique takes on what it means to be a human being.
I hope that you find the idea of the global village bard stimulating to your own creative process. Maybe, like others already have, you will find a way to participate in the programme in the course of a future collaboration. Or perhaps you are a businessperson or cultural ambassador who can see the potential of using global village bard to bring attention to your project or promote your product. Either way, please don’t be a stranger! Introduce yourself! Tell me (and others) what you think! What is your mother tongue? Who is your favourite singer or poet? What art form makes you feel most alive?
So, why do I think that rap is the new home of contemporary poetry? The famous 20th-century poet Wystan Hugh Auden memorably defined poetry as “memorable speech”. I think that is a good definition for a number of reasons. Firstly, the tendency towards so-called “free verse” (lines on a page that have neither metre nor rhyme) means that there is no longer a hard and fast distinction between poetry and prose other than that the latter appears in the form of sentences and paragraphs, while the former appears in the form of lines and stanzas that may or may not also conform to a sentence or paragraph structure. But what if the poetry is not written down? What if it is primarily experienced in its spoken – or declaimed – form? Aren’t the best (most memorable) political speeches, for example, more akin to poetry than prose?
Let’s take the spoken (oral) form of poetry as primary and worry about how to represent it in written form later. I think that this is the right way to think of it. I don’t find much “free verse” to be particularly memorable. Perhaps it looks good on a page. But turn the page and, unless you have a photographic memory, you will most likely have already forgotten what you just read. If you try to reproduce it after a significant passage of time, you may find that you can recall the gist of what was said, but that the words themselves, their organisation into phrases and the exact order in which they appear, elude you. Well, that’s how my mind works anyway.
To me, that’s the essential nature of prose. You don’t expect to be able to recall it word-for-word, but you will be able to paraphrase your impression of the author’s story or argument. And here’s the catch. Your impression of the story or argument is just that: anything that the author may have wished to keep intact has been lost. In order to go back to it, you will have to turn to the appropriate page (or click on the URL). Human memory is like that. It is essentially frail.
Let’s imagine that we want to be able to establish something in human linguistic memory that won’t be paraphrased, but that will form a lasting impression that has a fixed relationship to its original utterance, like the Mona Lisa’s face on da Vinci’s canvas or David’s form revealed by Michelangelo’s chisel. For this, we will need to turn to the timeless craft of poetry in which two formal elements are combined: rhythm and rhyme.
Since you probably know me as a singer-songwriter / translator and this Global Village Bard blog as a song and poetry translation site, I thought I’d try to explain the new direction taken by my alter ego Thomas Riffmatch and his merry crew.
Like many, I’ve been exposed to rap (hip hop) music for a few decades now. I suppose my first realisation that this was a major form came with the brilliantly shocking 1988 N.W.A. album ‘Straight outta Compton’. After that, it lay dormant in my consciousness for a while. A while ago, I had an idea to investigate the link between rap and calypso, another genre that was born out of the idea of lyrical “battles”, but it never came to anything.
While always intrigued by the form, I tended to be put off by the themes of hip hop: talk of bitches and niggas, gang violence and glorified drug-dealing, while interesting as a form of escapism, somehow didn’t seem to include my own experienced reality. Call me a privileged white man…
A few years ago, my son Max introduced me to the music of Watsky, a young white rapper from San Francisco. We so loved the whimsical self-deprecating humour of his second studio album ‘Cardboard Castles’ that we went to his concert at Glasgow’s King Tuts. But after a while, I have to say, Watsky’s whimsicality started to seem a tad smug and none of his subsequent albums ever quite reached the understated genius of ‘Cardboard Castles’.
Much more so than Eminem, Watsky helped me to realise that the rap genre doesn’t need to exclude (middle-class) white people like me. Maybe this is because, while Eminem seems to have a chip on his shoulder about being white, falling over himself to show that he is down with his black homeys in terms of social deprivation, Watsky never tries to portray himself other than a goofy overprivileged Californian white boy.
Although I did eventually get tired of Watsky’s schtick, I had caught the hip hop bug. Somehow songs didn’t sound so authentic any more. Why sing when you can rap? I started listening to a very wide range of rap music from the 1990s to the present day, mainly in the form of playlists and compilation albums. Whenever something caught my ear, I stopped and made a note of the artist. Although I no longer felt excluded by the genre, I was looking for something that was not ALL about niggas and bitches, but that also sought to express bigger ideas about what it means to be a human being.
In short, I was trying to find out what had happened to poetry.
We are delighted to announce that we now have a Telegram channel! If you are reading this, please say hi to confirm that it is working!
A discussion of some of the problems arising during the course of attempting a ‘musical’ verse translation of Lermontov’s early lyric poem 1831-go IYUNYA 11 DNYA is presented. A metrical analysis of the poem’s prosodic features is carried out in accentual- syllabic, beat-prosodic and musical terms. In particular, the Russian poet’s extensive use of enjambment and caesura to create rhythmic and syntactic tension between the levels of phrase and poetic line creates challenges for a translator who aims to preserve the rhythmic structure of the original while also using the phraseological resources of the target language to the fullest advantage. In the course of the analysis, it became apparent that some prosodic features, appearing both in the source text and the attempted translation, evade full description in accentual-syllabic, beat-prosodic and musical terms. Therefore, it also became necessary to introduce the concept of “flow”, which is derived from contemporary rap music and may partially correspond to the Russian prosodic term zashagovaniye. Readers are invited to assess to what extent the translation strategies employed in this case are successful in maintaining fidelity to the source text in terms of its (i) signification, (ii) form, (iii) emotionality and (iv) singability.
I will survive I will survive. The words make up the phrase Sung by Gloria Gaynor to a tearful crowd of gays In sad self-isolation. I’ll call a spade a spade. The barman’s calling time on this identity parade… I feel the longing of the lone long-distance lover, Though, when it comes to sentiment, I keep it undercover. My life matters… at least, to me… but why? Who wills survives to will again… but who am I? At breakneck speed, my form depends on vigorous mutation, Cytoplasmic inheritance blown on constant replication, At rates of reproduction, where the fastest is the slowest, I infect my hosts, but only whose resistance is the lowest; I’ll get my protein coat, I’m leaving, all these sad farewells… I cannot live in freedom, spend my time locked up in cells, Parasitically depend on that of which I’m most desirous: I’m a virus. I, I will survive Oh, as long as I’m mutating, you can say that I’m alive I've got all your life to live I've got immunity to give and I'll survive I will survive, hey hey Dreamt up by colonials to prove their reign of terror; Bounded by my neighbour, whom I’m doomed to always mirror. Encroachment, conquest, slavery, revolt, extermination; Reluctant to assimilate, I combat integration In these rivers of blood, in which no man steps twice, I want to play, but don’t want to play nice – You’ll dominate, I’ll be your bitch, just tell me to my face That I’m a race. I, I will survive Oh, as long as I remember who I am, I'll be alive – I've got all my life to live I've got my heritage to give – and I'll survive I will survive, hey hey In my urge to penetrate into the mystery of the other, I’ll impregnate my sister, lift my hand against my brother – He, whose sacrifice was pleasing to the Lord, I’ll mend his torment with my perfect sword – And, wandering the earth, condemned to arbitrary freedom, I invent bizarre machines to ease my suppurating tedium; Inhabiting the world since time began… I am a man. And I’ll survive Oh, as long as I’m determining myself, I'll stay alive I've got all my life to live I've got my cleverness to give and I'll survive I will survive, hey hey Receptive, all-embracing, I anticipate deflowering That my idiot compassion spawn a Mother all-devouring, Or an icy queen, whose reign entails a thousand years of winter: I’m Karaba the sorceress, whose spine conceals a splinter, To be plucked by Kirikou, who ungirds my underbodice, To bloom into a beautiful and open-hearted goddess; Embodying in truth exactly half of what is human… I am a woman. And I’ll survive Oh, as long as I am nurturing, I know I'll stay alive I've got all my life to live And I've got all my love to give and I'll survive I will survive, hey hey All history is murderous, for dead men tell no tales. As a player on this stage, whose life expectancy entails That, in waging war or trade, I give no quarter: I’ll be pensioned in the form of bricks and mortar; And, like all such men rewarded for their violence, I’ll endeavour that my victims rest in silence. In terms of slave religion, aye, a sinner… But I’m a winner. I, I will survive Oh, as long as I’ve got narrative, I know I'll stay alive I've got all my life to live And I've got evidence to give and I'll survive I will survive, hey hey I am the spark of grace that sets the universe ablaze, Scintillating everywhere until the end of days; The suffering and pain amongst the human population Are but food for me; my drink – their rank humiliation. The older that I get, the more I’m saving up my semen, Storing vital energy for battling these demons; While I’m waiting for the angels to arrive, I will survive.
© Rap version based on the original song by Dino Fekaris / Frederick J. Perren. Additional lyrics written and performed by Thomas Riffmatch to a backing track arranged by Nikita Nikitin with backing vocals by Primavera, recorded and produced in Ekaterinburg by Andrey Bokovikov.
The Law of Noncontradiction is the second single from the forthcoming album ‘Heraclitus Flow’ by Thomas Riffmatch, produced by Andrey Bokovikov and featuring the electronic compositions of Nikita Nikitin. The Law of Noncontradiction also features backing vocals by Primavera.
The idea behind the song is that the logical law of noncontradiction is primarily experienced by us in terms of relationship. The position “If I’m right, then you’re wrong” is something familiar to all of us who have engaged with each other on social media or in the context of familial or intimate relating. This “excluding the middle” is what gives us a sense of our own essential “rightness” and feeling that we proceed from a “moral conviction”. However, it’s obvious that nobody has a monopoly on “rightness”! As my dear mother likes to jest: “When they said I had finally met Mr Right, I had no idea his first name was ‘Always’!”
This theme is central to the concept behind ‘Heraclitus Flow’: no man steps into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and it’s not the same man!
Although people say I’m a bit of a one, to tango or foxtrot takes two; Still, having the same sense at the same time, both of us cannot be true; For a state to willingly give up its sovereignty, that would be gross dereliction: On behalf of the crown, I therefore lay down the law of noncontradiction. For every system that’s sufficiently expressive, there’s a provable – or not – proposition; If I’m right, then you’re wrong – that’s the dialectic that structures our personal mission; But all analytic statements are somewhat tautologous: is it a fact or a fiction? I don’t care what you say if you don’t disobey my law of noncontradiction. In violating each other’s identities thus, we find ourselves in a situation; We run to extremes, excluding the middle, to obviate equivocation; We aim to be justified, strive to always proceed from a moral conviction; Though blissful, such ignorance is no defence against the law of noncontradiction. If 'fire' and 'not fire' are thought to be equal, the thinker’s subjected to burning; Since feasting and fasting are one and the same, the student through hunger is learning; We’re all of a surety lacking security, all of us facing eviction; But, on my high horse, I still have to enforce the law of noncontradiction. Like the self-amputation of a broad-snouted caiman undergoing a caudal autotomy, Or the diachronic change in a epileptic’s brain following a frontal lobotomy; Dividing into two antagonistic parts results in a vasoconstriction: Permission dispensed to go up against the law of noncontradiction. We are and are not what is now or to come, in a constant and fixed state of flux; Though the road up and down are one and the same, both entail the giving of fucks; Our action consists in the mills and the grists to work up the requisite friction To find an explanation for each and every violation of the law of noncontradiction. The one that is and ever must be is a truth that is always immutable; The other that’s not – and must always not be – is a path that is wholly inscrutable; For you cannot know what is not, or is so, to refute my despondent prediction: All that’s desired must be paid for as required by the law of noncontradiction. Respect things that are in the sense that they are, preserving the ship and the treasure; Show all proper deference when making reference to that of which man is the measure; Take on this handyman to feed the biters, all due to his excellent diction: The collection of rent is ninety percent of the law of noncontradiction. It’s both mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive, now that I’m giving the flag salute; But everything must be absolutely relativised in order to relate to the absolute; Elenctic negation results in stagnation, all due to a chronic addiction To think yourself better than the spirit or letter of the law of noncontradiction. Restricting reaction in the same part or relation, a utopian state is thus frozen; At the same time, on the contrary, somehow, must always an action be chosen; To be fixed like a hero on the frieze of the Parthenon’s to suffer a grievous affliction: Till the day that I die, I’ll never comply with the law of noncontradiction.
©Lyrics written and performed by Thomas Riffmatch to a backing track composed by Nikita Nikitin with backing vocals by Primavera, recorded and produced in Ekaterinburg by Andrey Bokovikov.
I am delighted to announce my invitation to perform at the 2nd Sail of Destiny festival honouring the work of the great Russian poet Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov. The festival, which will take place on 13th-19th October 2020 in Pyatigorsk in the Russian North Caucasus, is timed to commemorate the 206th anniversary of Lermontov’s birth in Moscow on the 16th October 1814. As well as participating in various pilgrimages to important Lermontov sites, including the location of his fatal duel on 27th July, 1841, I will be performing excerpts from my Lermontov song cycle entitled Жив поэт! |The Bard is not Dead! at a gala concert and other to-be-announced events.
I have been intensely interested in Lermontov’s work for several years now. Often ranked second only to Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin in the Russian poetic pantheon, Lermontov is, to me, the more interesting poet. Although in terms of the quantity and breadth of his output, Mikhail Yuryevich can’t claim Alexander Sergeyevich’s crown, he still managed to chalk up an extraordinary series of literary – and existential – accomplishments in his short 26 years on this planet. Even at the tender age of 17, he was already capable of sustained artistic brilliance as seen in his long prophetic poem 1831-го ИЮНЯ 11 ДНЯ (translated by me under the title When a harp rings out boldly in eternal halls of fame).
I first encountered Lermontov’s poetry in 2014, the year of his 200th anniversary, which coincided with a conference in Moffat (Scotland), the project to install a bronze bust of Lermontov in the nearby village of Earlston, home of his semi-mythical forbear Thomas the Rhymer (whose surname was Learmonth), and a request from Maria Koroleva – a Lermontov descendant and prominent Scotophile – to translate some of Lermontov’s poems in such a way as to preserve their music. At the same time, I was working with some Middle English manuscripts of Thomas the Rhymer’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece to produce a modern (Scots-) English version entitled Rhyming Thomas and the Faery Queen. Both of these texts would later form the basis for the song cycle Жив поэт! |The Bard is not Dead!
Rhyming Thomas and the Faery Queen was brilliantly translated into Russian by my long-term collaborator Mikhail Feygin under the title Томас Рифмач и Королева Эльфов.
While translating Lermontov’s poetry, I noticed that the music of his language reveals itself through the act of translation. Perhaps this is true of all poetic translation. The result was the song cycle Жив поэт! |The Bard is not Dead!, which is currently being arranged for bard, choir and orchestra by the Ekaterinburg-based violinist and arranger Tatyana Terekhova. The score will be presented at a special event at the Lermontov State Museum-Zapovednik in Pyatigorsk on Saturday 17th October.
At some point, I hope that a performance of Жив поэт! |The Bard is not Dead! will be staged in full format, i.e. bard, choir and orchestra. For this, both artistic collaborators and sponsors will be required. Such a performance can either be in Russian or English (ideally both stagings will happen at some point), bringing the wonderful music of Lermontov’s poetry to life alongside that of his legendary forbear Thomas the Rhymer. If you are interested in helping this project come to fruition, please get in touch.
The Bard is not dead! | Жив поэт! is a song cycle composed by Thomas Beavitt around English translations of eight poems written by the Russian poet Mikhail Yuryevitch Lermontov. Intended to be performed by a male singer either to a simple guitar or piano accompaniment or with full orchestra and choir, The Bard is not dead! | Жив поэт! can be performed in either the translated English version or the original Russian texts.
The demo version presented here, recorded in 2019 and 2020 by Andrey Bokovikov, is performed in Russian by Thomas Beavitt and features the voices of Ekaterina Ashrafzyanova, Rusha Grebenschikova and Ekaterina Maltseva.
Rhyming Thomas & the Faery Queen
‘Twas at the breaking of the day
All in a longing as I lay
Her palfrey was a dapple grey,
Her fair hair o’er her head it hung
Her hands they were as white as snow
I lay there to behold that sight
Thomas gladly up he rose
Then answered back that lady bright:
“If thou be held most high in praise
“Ah lady, should’st thou pity me
Down then lit that lady bright
Thomas leapt up with a shout
Then Thomas cried: “Alack! Alas!
But she said: “Thomas, don’t displease,
“Take now your leave of sun and moon,
She led him down at Eildon Hill
They came then to an orchard fair
Thomas reached out with his hand –
She said: “Now Thomas, take not fright
“See ye now yon simple way
“And see ye now yon desolate way
“In faith, True Thomas, there I dwell
“My lord waits in a mighty hall
Said Thomas: “Lady, what delight!
“Indeed, and had it not been so,
Into that hall they boldly went
There was feasting, merry games,
He heard and saw more in that place
“You must make haste your ways to wend
She took him out at Eildon hill
Томас Рифмач и Королева эльфов
На листьях капельки росы
Раскинув руки я лежал,
Сверкает жемчугом седло,
Завороженный я смотрел,
И даже гончих быстрый бег
Своей догадкой потрясён,
Томас быстро побежал,
– Томас, ты не угадал,
– Уж если королева ты,
– О, Королева, я клянусь,
По телу пробежала дрожь,
Томас крикнул от испуга –
Томас крикнул: – Боже мой!
– Ну что ты, Томас, перестань,
Прощайся с солнцем и луной,
За ней от Элдонских холмов
Они вошли в прекрасный сад:
Томас руку протянул,
Она сказала: – Прислонись
– Есть в жизни всем известный путь
Проклятье вечное ждёт тех,
Там, Честный Томас, я живу.
Мой Лорд, в кругу своих солдат,
Сказал он: – Леди, я так рад!
– Меня б он проклял навсегда,
Они уверенно вошли
Веселье, танцы, пир горой,
Он столько повидал всего,
– Семь лет назад, но как вчера,
И вновь на Элдонском холме
Modern English version adapted from four Middle English manuscripts by Thomas Beavitt ©2014. Russian verse translation by Michael Feigin ©2015