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This report is taken from PN Review 204, Volume 38 Number 4, March - April 2012.

Composing Settings for Texts by Gabriel Levin
Composing Settings for 'To these Dark Steps / The Fathers are Watching' by Gabriel Lev
Alexander Goehr
We met first, poet and I, at a session of a little group of people in Jerusalem reading Greek tragedy, and then later at a demonstration in the Sheik Jarrah neighbourhood protesting against the expulsion of Palestinian residents from their houses by Israeli settlers. Levin's son had just been arrested. I mention both meetings because they tell about the atmosphere among at least a minority of people in Israel and, I believe, something about the poems 'To These Dark Steps' and the prose pieces 'The Fathers are Watching' which accompany them.

At the demonstration, Levin suggested he might visit me and show me his work. It was a set of verses the subject of which was music. He explained that at the time of the bombing of Gaza (in 2008), he had found himself unable to listen to the kind of music he loved; only twentieth-century pieces by Webern, Bartók, Ligeti, Messiaen and Morton Feldman now spoke to him. The poems he brought have as their subject the listening to these composers' works at such a time. They are not 'political' poems, he told me. It seems to me that they are poems written in a landscape, albeit one inseparable from quotidian political events.

I did not think when I read these poems that I had ever seen anything like them, referring as they do to compositions of composers central to my own preoccupations. Nor, and I must add this, are they versified music appreciations. First and ...


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