In preparation for Monday’s WILDE CARD, singer-songwriter Sara Judge shared some thoughts about her work and composing music for the event.
Like many other people in this world I am a songwriter. I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember. What makes songs different from poems is, not much, you sing them. When I was in second grade I carried around a composition book and wrote songs down as they came to me and I sang them into the air. I numbered each one and I remember the day I reached 16. It seemed like such a high number—the kids at school were impressed. Some early titles include Paradise (“a place where you want to be”), and Witchy Wind (“leave me alone witchy wind”). In the fourth grade I’d apparently found most of these early songs to have been so juvenile and embarrassing that I ripped the pages out of my book and threw them away, leaving only songs 1, 4 and 7. If only I still had those cruelly discarded songs. What does a second grader, a third grader write about?
Of course today, so many years later, I really actually make songs with guitar and perform them. The process is much the same. The wind or the sun or a thought demands attention—“grab a pen,” or “record this!” and I write or sing whatever comes out, usually simultaneously on guitar and vocals. From there, I look at the words, I listen to the recordings of the melodies and I massage and rewrite and contemplate so that something true is expressed. My songs always come from me, through me.
This was the first time I’ve attempted to turn words that have come through someone else into music and melody. It felt clunky and almost as if I was cheating on someone. I looked through Wilde’s poems trying to find the ones that resonated with me. I’d never read any of Wilde’s poems before, although I knew him as a playwright—most famously The Importance of Being Earnest.
So I chose the poems. They seemed so structured, so formal and kind of antiquated (not in a good way). I forced myself to start working on the guitar part for “By the Arno.” Something clicked and this little classical-like arpeggio piece started rolling out. Next, add “lyrics.” Once I lifted the words from the page and began singing them, I felt as though I was meeting Oscar Wilde, the man, for the first time. These words were so true, so deeply conscious and sensitive, emotional. These words, like my own, came from his heart. And suddenly, becoming so intimate with them, made them even more beautiful to me. I could see source, the heart, and I could feel the motivation, the subtleties of emotion, as if I’d written it myself. In the process, I gained a deeper understanding of my own compositions, my own poetry and my own lyrics. (And if it’s not taking too much away from Mr. Wilde, you can listen to some of them at www.sarajudge.com.) I hope you enjoy the performances. Above all, I wanted to keep it simple and let the words be clear, so that you could feel as though you were reading these exquisite poems to yourself.
WILDE CARD, which features performances of Oscar Wilde’s The Florentine Tragedy, La Saint Courtesan, and original music by Sara Judge inspired by the writer performs once and only once on Monday, September 20 at the Cafe Royale Bar (800 Post, at Leavenworth). Admission is free, with a suggested donation. Performance begins at 8pm.