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June 7, 2005

'Little Noises' puts poet's work to music


She has "always been a words and music person," but until her two-disc "Little Noises" project came about, Marcia Pelletiere admits she "never thought they would come together." The poet/singer/songwriter is a founding member of award-winning a cappella group the Accidentals. Pelletiere's album, out now on her own Saf'lini Music label, features 26 of her poems set to music and performed by such esteemed East Coast acts as Suzzy and Terre Roche, Vernon Reid, Joy Askew, Richard Barone, Catherine Russell and the Accidentals themselves.

"I'd written songs for other groups but gave it up when I started writing poetry 15 years ago," says Pelletiere, whose work has since appeared in journals and anthologies including the Southern Poetry Review and Painted Bride Quarterly. "Many people write songs with incredibly profound lyrics, but I could never get what I wanted to say in that form."

Vocally trained in classical choral music, Pelletiere figured her poetry might best be paired with such a classical composer as Randall Thompson, whose setting of Robert Frost's "Choose Something Like a Star" was her introduction to poetry-through-song. "But I couldn't figure out how to put pop and classical and serious literary influences into one pot," she says. But six years of collaborating with many of the "Little Noises" participants on Barone's "Downtown Messiah" productions and Hal Willner's multi-artist album tributes to Thelonious Monk and Walt Disney pointed the way for Pelletiere. "Downtown Messiah" soloist AnnMarie Milazzo -- who co-wrote and performed the "Little Noises" title track -- read Pelletiere's unpublished poetry manuscript and wanted to write music for her words.

"I've often thought of Charles Whiteside, who sang bass in the Accidentals and died of AIDS, whom we never recorded," Pelletiere says. "And here were all these extraordinary musicians who should be put together to preserve what happens in the music scene. So I went to Margaret Dorn -- goddess of the universe -- because I knew if she was involved it would happen."

Dorn is the choir director/soloist for "Downtown Messiah" and a member of the Accidentals. She has sung with the likes of Bette Midler and Willie Nelson; her songwriting credits include tunes for Karen Carpenter and Melba Moore. Dorn produced "Little Noises" and composed and performed its track "Man Mine." "She took a poem about throwing dishes at someone I was living with and turned it into a love song!" Pelletiere marvels. "Everyone had the freedom to do it their own way," Dorn says. "And we got a huge variety of wonderful submissions -- which is what we wanted."

Askew, who has accompanied Joe Jackson and Rodney Crowell and whose most recent album, "Echo," teamed her with electronic jazz musician Takuya Nakamura, was roused by Pelletiere's poem "Lake Calhoun." "It was so incredibly inspiring that I wrote (the music) almost straight off," Askew says. "It was so visual."

Posted by acapnews at June 7, 2005 12:22 AM