Ginsberg’s Grocery

All of the sounds in this mix were derived from or suggested by Allen Ginsberg’s voice in his audio recording of the poem “A Supermarket in California.” The tempo (138 bpm) was Ableton Live’s suggested tempo in analyzing the sound file of the voice. The harmonium intro is a nod to Ginsberg’s use of the instrument in his audio version of William Blake poems. (An electronic MIDI harmonium sound was used here, however.) A tambourine keeps the pulse in the introduction and first sections of the poem.

The harmonium and other melodic instruments (piano, bass) lines were drawn from vocal phrases in the poem, such as “What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman.” You can hear the bass and piano echo some lines of the voice. An Adonai malakh scale was applied to the melodies of these instruments.

In the latter half of the arrangement, an arpeggiated organ sound echoes the voice, and a techno drum rhythm appears, transforming the organic rhythm of the tambourine and bass sounds into a “neon fruit supermarket” ambience. The harmonium sound transforms into a “soda pop” synth.

Allen Ginsberg, “A Supermarket in California” copyright Ⓒ 1955 by Allen Ginsberg. Request for permission to post the remix in this blog has been submitted to The Wylie Agency, Inc.

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