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This article is taken from PN Review 248, Volume 45 Number 6, July - August 2019.

A Musical Tribute to the Poet John Ashbery
Sarah Rothenberg

John Ashbery and Sarah Rothenberg

John Ashbery and Sarah Rothenberg © Charles Harbutt

The following essay was written as an introduction to a concert presented at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas on 30 April 2019 by Da Camera chamber music and jazz, where I am artistic director. The 2018–19 season theme for Da Camera, ‘Time future/time past’ was reflected in a range of classical, contemporary, jazz and interdisciplinary programs performed by an international roster of musicians, and also refers to this season marking my twenty-fifth anniversary as artistic director.

The program on 30 April included John Zorn’s from Chimera – ‘Girls on the Run’; Erik Satie’s Trois valses distinguées d’un précieux dégoûté; Joan Tower’s ‘Holding a Daisy’ and ‘Or like Engine’ from No Longer Very Clear; and Charles Wuorinen’s Josquiniana (after Josquin des Prez) and Ashberyana; as well as archival recordings of readings and ‘A Conversation between John Ashbery and Sarah Rothenberg’.

NO PROGRAM on this Da Camera season evokes as many personal memories than tonight’s musical tribute to the great American poet John Ashbery (1927–2017). Touching on many years of friendship and going back to my earliest days at Da Camera, the phrase from T.S. Eliot that inspired our season theme, ‘time future contained in time past,’ seems particularly true as I look back on the interweaving connections and memories that lie behind the music and poetry we hear tonight.

I first met John Ashbery in upstate New York in ...

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