The Kansas City Art Institute. in collaboration with UMKC, hosted the fifth operatic reading of poet of late Dina Von Zweck’s “A Day In The Park,” with musical accompaniment of the season on Tuesday March 12.
Before passing away last December, Zweck wrote the poem during the wake of the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, primarily writing on the experience of walking through Zuccotti Park. In the poem she describes the park, neighborhood and protestors with meticulous detail, while simultaneously falling into moments of extreme literary surrealism and symbolic writing.
Her descriptions are physical as well as emotional, since she also described the feeling that the walk exuded. She addressed the CBS newsbreaks that were being presented during the protest and concluded with the eventual moment of police intervention.
The poem was performed with musical accompaniment composed by Jorge Sosa, a friend of Zweck who arranged a fascinating and off-kilter soundtrack consisting of a clarinet, a cello and a trumpet. Also included were ambient noise and subtle, quiet, jungle-like beats from a computer. This inclusion of sound helped envelop the audience in the idea of the poetic journey through the park.
During her days walking through the park, Zweck took a number of photos which were to be presented in a slideshow with the performance, through her passing prevented the photos from being shown.
Even without the addition of the photographs, Zweck’s poetic descriptions of the park still resonate powerfully, working with the music to paint a furious and surreal New York. The usage of cello with clarinet created a sorrowful, weighted feeling, bringing to mind a tragic visage of squalor. Simultaneously, the listener can feel a sense of happiness. At times Zweck employs descriptions of the beauty of the protest, and stands as a reminder of the very gorgeousness of the efforts made by the protesters.
Sosa’s composition may appear ambient though it aids in the communication of the poems’ themes, both uplifting and otherwise. The poem is read in an elegant style, like an opera using a soprano and a baritone singer. In certain moments the singing is abandoned for cold, monotone readings of statements from occupiers as well as excerpts from The Occupy Wall Street Journal.
What this collaboration between Sosa and Zweck is a literary and musical portrait of a radical moment in history.
“A Day In The Park” is considered a “multimedia musical drama,” and it fits the description. It pulls the listener in and only tightens its grip as it descends down into a feverish and shrieking masterwork of a piece. Zweck went closer to the frontlines of the protests than any journalist ever did, and in her words, coupled with Sosa’s music, this is the most real account.