the chorus


was the last of three chorus workshops at Carver Center High School with N’s students, working on the choruses from Ted Hughes’s translation of the AGAMMEMNON. I am going to eventually write an essay about these choruses, how choral forms or devices appear in other Hughes poems (esp. in BIRTHDAY LETTERS) and on the experience of directing the choruses.

Hughes’s choruses are lineated in a very abrupt and irregular manner, but the lines have a lot of rhythmic consistency underneath that lineation. Reading to the punctuation helped: that is, we disregarded his line breaks for the purpose of speaking the text.

We used these techniques:

Day One:
(1) Assigning specific students to “lead” or be responsible for different phrases of the text, and working through the text, one section at a time, in this manner.
(2) Adding multiple voices in on top of the framework of individual students leading
(3) Discussing intention, tone, action verbs for passages (just like with a monologue)

Day Two:
Same as Day One but moving much more quickly: we got through several pages, instead of just one stanza.

Day Three:
(1) Permitted students to freely chorally improvise through remainder of chorus passage in question. Discussed results.
(2) Let individual students try their hand at directing or orchestrating passages–assigning specific words to specific students.
For example, there was a repeated line “The black bird and the white bird,” and one student asked half the students to say “The black bird” and the other half “the white bird.” This assignment of half-lines to subgroups reminded me of Homeric epithets. His innovation with this line was carried forward when and wherever the line appeared.
(3) Time running out, I encouraged the remaining students to “sketch” their ideas rather than assign them. There is a tendency to say “John, you say “The,” and Elizabeth, you say “Ship,” ” and so on, and it’s very time-consuming. But through using improv as a quick rendering device, we had time for three students to direct.

N and I discussed some, after, whether 15-year-olds are old enough to direct chorus passages themselves. It did bring out some time-wasting and arguing in the group–part of the problem may be the large size (12 students) of the group they have to control. But it was interesting to see. I think they might be able to do it effectively in smaller groups.

Baltimore, the chorus


Taught a workshop on a chorus from Ted Hughes’s translation of AGAMMEMNON today to N’s class at the Carver Center High School in Towson. Then. in our workshop today, convinced everyone to read through Yeats’s “No Second Troy” in chorus formation. Tomorrow, more The Other Shore chorus workshops, and I’ll be back at Carver twice this week. Never have I ever…imagined doing so many of these things in one week. It’s a good thing.

L and B are in town.

Baltimore, poetry, the chorus

from the lighthearted department

Spent the ||8ve session this week on four Robert Herrick poems–there’s nothing to make you stop thinking about Poland like a good half-hour spent directing “Upon Julia’s Clothes.” O, how that glittering taketh me. It is really good to be silly–it’s better still to take silly things seriously, and serious things in humor.

J and I spent time after the actual rehearsal working on some administrative stuff for the group. We’re being serious–speaking of taking more silly things seriously–we made a FB page, registered a domain name, created a to-do list, and J actually sketched a logo in a notepad in Subway.


today is the birthday of Parallel Octave. He is six months old, having been born on April 10, and is probably too young for Julia’s clothes or being upon them. The news is next. From National Public Radio in Washington, I’m Karl Castle.

Baltimore, Poland, the chorus

(carriage) return

I have returned from a week in Wroclaw, Poland, taking a theater workshop with Piesn Kosla (Song of the Goat) and am getting back into the swing of things here on campus–teaching, seminar, making final revisions to essays for a grant. Today is my third day back and the jet-lag is finally fading a bit.

I owe a great many people a great many phone calls, a situation complicated by falling asleep at 5 pm Eastern.

The theater workshop itself was extraordinary. I have a lot to say about it. I’m working on an account of the trip, which I hope to finish this week, while the memories are still recent.

The travel back from Poland to the US was no less extraordinary, but not in a good way–I managed to miss both a train and my flight, and have to rebook.

But I’m here now. It’s very good to be back. Baltimore has never looked so beautiful, and there’s nothing to make you appreciate Southern politeness, and the “how are you”s and door-holding-opens at every turn, like 24 hours stuck in Warsaw central station.

Poland, the chorus, theater

almost ready

to leave, but not quite.

I’m getting on a plane to Berlin tomorrow, and from there, a train to Wroclaw, for a week-long workshop with Song of the Goat. I’ll be back on the 20th. I won’t have phone or reliable Internet until then. I’ll put something up here, however, when I return.

To be continued.

Baltimore, the chorus


I taught a chorus workshop to 12 students at SCT’s youth conservatory yesterday, and it was excellent. We had about an hour, and we did the process where they each bring in their own 4 lines of text and it ends in a chorus jam with all of them going from one text to another. I really liked it.

I had dinner with S at the end of the day, to celebrate the article, and I commented that I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make these workshops work now. It used to be so hard, and it feels so natural now, so straightforward. He said, “Well begun is half done.” I guess that’s so. After all, it has been a long time beginning, with many beginnings.

I also signed paperwork to become a Free School space steward / person-who-can-hold-a-class-there yesterday, so that Parallel Octave can rehearse there in the future.

Baltimore, the chorus

||8ve article in Baltimore CityPaper

“Now taking place at the Baltimore Free School, Parallel Octave is poised to bring all sorts of Baltimore artists together—and perhaps create a new kind of art in the process.”

– from Rachel Monroe’s wonderful CityPaper article on the ||8ve chorus, “All Together Now,” just posted today. It’ll be in tomorrow’s issue.

If you’re interested in our project, please check out our website or course page on the Free School site, or email