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Life Studies
for two-channel audio

Life Studies is based on a recording of Helen Vendler reading Shakespeare's sonnet number 65 ("Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea") that was released on a CD accompanying her inspiring book The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets (Belknap Press, 1999). I transformed the recording using granular synthesis and comb filters that ring out in response to the varying rhythm and inflection of her reading. In the resulting composition a steady pulse becomes the background for a more gradual and multi-layered development. The first movement traverses the entire sonnet and the method of transformation changes phrase by phrase. In the second movement the poem's first couplet is expanded to last almost eight minutes. Although the identity of the original recording as a spoken text is heavily veiled, the human music of Vendler's voice and Shakespeare's words shines out from the mechanical surface of the piece to reflect the metaphorical paradox of bright love shining in the black ink of the poem.

date: 2004
duration: 13:00
premiere: June 1, 2004, New York, NY, Friends & Enemies of New Music.

[crosstalk CD cover]

Movement 1 released on the CD Crosstalk
presented by Mendi + Keith Obadike

Available from Bridge Records, iTunes, and Amazon

Movement 1

Movement 2

"John Link's Life Studies, Movement 1 features digital synthesis, employing Shakespearean scholar Helen Vendler reading Sonnet #65. The result is an engaging combination of regular pulsations, percussive attacks, layered washes of speech snippets, and fragmentary pitch gestures."
—Christian Carey (File Under?/Signal to Noise)

"Mendi and Keith Obadike have compiled a stunning recording containing pieces that have, at one time or another, been referred to as "spoken word," "text-sound," "sound poetry," or simply rap.... Although it is never presented in a straightforward fashion, a reading of Shakespeare's sonnet number 65 serves as the raw material for John Link's Life Studies, Movement #1, yielding a complex rhythmic surface constructed of dislocated aspirates, sibilants, and gutturals."
—John Brackett (Journal of the Society for American Music)

This diverse, oddish, and comely music goes far beyond what one might expect, and should prompt you to explore the works of each and every one of these artists' work...."
—Michael G. Nastos (