Audio: Man with Briefcase at #2968443 by Three Fried Men
Sculpture: Man with Briefcase at #2968443 by Jonathan Borofsky
“Man with Briefcase at #2968443”
(Nick Barbieri, Chris King, David Melson)
Recorded by Three Fried Men
Produced by Chris King
Recorded by Nick Barbieri and David Melson
Mixed by Nick Barbieri
Mastered by Elijah “Lij” Shaw at The Toy Box Studio (Nashville, Tenn.)
Nick Barbieri: drums, vocals, vocal arrangement, melody
Mark Buckheit: electric guitar
Chris King: concept, poem
David Melson: guitars, keyboards, bass, music composition
With: Jack Barbieri and Frank Barbieri (“Really? Totally!”)
Three Fried Men is the house band of the non-profit arts organization Poetry Scores (www.poetryscores.blogspot.com
), which translates poetry into other media.
A note on process
By Chris King
When I chose to work with Jonathan Borofsky’s sculpture Man with briefcase at #2968443, I found his mailing address via social engineering; oddly for a man once obsessed with counting numbers, his house is unnumbered on what must be a small lane in a small Maine town.
I hand-wrote the artist a letter describing the songwriting project at Laumeier and explaining my method with Poetry Scores, where we put words by others to music. I noted that he kept dream journals in the years when he was counting obsessively and naming his pieces with a reference to the number he had counted up to when he completed a piece. I asked if he could share passages from a dream journal corresponding to the time he made this sculpture.
He wrote back via email, saying he had no dream journals to share but generally described his intentions with this sculpture, which was nothing I could score. It took him some time to respond, and in the meantime I had excerpted some of his comments about counting and numbers from an interview and set that Borofsky text to music with David Melson. So I wrote back requesting his permission to use this spoken text of his and credit him with the lyrics.
He wrote back generously granting permission for us to use his words but saying he also is a songwriter and didn’t want me to credit him because it would cause confusion with his own efforts as a composer. I told him that defeated the purpose and ruined the fun of scoring his texts, so I decided to write my own poem that we could then score.
I came up with this:
Man with briefcase at #2968443
not working in the hot burning rain in Ecuador
for conquistadores anymore, senor. Elevator ascends
to numbers unbound, mortgage-backed e-securities. Really? Totally!
We owe now indivisibly.
No exchanges, selves, individualities.
XL e pluribus ignoramus.
I wrote the poem by playing number and word games with the title of Borofsky’s sculpture, in honor of the artist.
The lines in the poem have the following number of words, corresponding to the number in Borofsky’s title: 2-9-6-8-4-4-3.
Then I took the letters in the words in the name of the sculpture and built an architecture for the words in the poem:
n___ w___ i___ t___ h___
b____ r____ i___ e___
f____ c___ a___ s___ e___ .....
(spelling out “#” with the word “number” when I got that far and spelling out the word forms of the numerals).
I chose a different David Melson song idea to score my new poem, and sent the poem and Dave’s instrumental recording to Nick Barbieri, who came up with a better melody than I had in mind and put together a nice vocal arrangement for it. Nick then started over, recording Dave’s song with his drums first; Dave then added guitars, bass and keyboards to the drums; then back to Nick for his vocals; then Mark Buckheit topped it off with a lead electric guitar line; and finally two of Nick’s sons added just the right touch vocally on the ridiculous lyrics “Really? Totally!”