A Melody named Memory
Singapore, 18 Sept 2017 – A new poetry series launched by The Arts House pays tribute to Singapore’s diverse multi-lingual culture by celebrating literary excellence in local poetry in all four of the country’s official languages. The Poetry with Music series, which pairs the cadence of poems to melodic accompaniment, will be developed as an annual signature series of The Arts House as it positions itself with a renewed focus on the literary arts. Aside from cultivating interest in the works of Singapore written word artists, the multi-lingual series aims to grow cross-cultural appreciation and greater understanding through the literary arts.
“That art is able to transcend cultural boundaries is widely acknowledged,” Jobina Tan, Arts House Limited’s Head of Programming said. “With the Poetry with Music series, The Arts House is harnessing the power of the written word and pairing it with the universal appeal of music to spark, not just greater interest in poetry, but also interesting conversations within our multi-cultural and multi-lingual audiences.”
The first installment in the Poetry with Music series kicks off with A Memory named Melody诗韵:《莫忘影中人》, an evening of Chinese poetry and chamber music on 7 October timed to coincide with Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations. The works of celebrated Singapore Chinese-language poets such as Chua Chee Lay, Dan Ying and Wong Yoon Wah are featured with live music from Ding Yi Music Company.
The Malay- and Tamil-language editions of the series are planned for late 2017 and early 2018, with more details released at a later date.
A Melody named Memory
Given the cadence, rhythm and rhyme of poetry, music is a natural companion that complements its recital and performance. Such pairings and performances are also commonplace in many established literary scenes around the world, and are starting to grow in popularity in Singapore.
Previous presentations by The Arts House of spoken poetry with music have received positive reception, and it is this burgeoning interest that it is hoping to parlay into Singapore’s other official languages, while at the same time drawing on the pool of literary talent locally.
A Melody named Memory诗韵:《莫忘影中人》is an evening of Chinese poetry and chamber music exploring recollections of Singapore in the heady nation-building decades of 1950s to 1980s.
Inspired by the Chinese saying “莫忘影中人”, a common adage used at that time when gifting photographs as mementos to urge friends and loved ones to remember and cherish them. This Mid-Autumn Festival event features close to a dozen poems by some of the nation’s most celebrated poets such as Chua Chee Lay, Dan Ying and Wong Yoon Wah. These poems delicately trace the unfolding of Singapore’s literary scene alongside the unfurling of a bustling city-state—from post-war, to independence to rapid economic growth.
Deftly playing with the unique characteristics of both art forms—Chinese poetry as a lyrical recitation and Chinese chamber music as a melodic dialogue between instruments, this musical dialogue paints a vivid portrait of a generation grappling with social transformations and upheavals such as the aftermath of the Japanese Occupation and the forging of a nascent national identity.
Be it navigating the banks of the Rochor River where junk boats used to ply, the revving of Jurong’s industrial engine, or the solemn celibacy vow ceremonies of Majie, the aspirations and anxieties of a generation confronted with sweeping change are conveyed through a blend of the oral and aural.
Preceding the performance is a lecture by Singaporean poet and academic Teo Sum Lim who will lend insights into key phenomenons of the Singapore’s Chinese poetry scene from the 1950s to 1980s. The session will highlight key poets, analyze some of their most significant works, and finally evaluate how the genre of Singapore Chinese poetry has evolved through the years.
A Melody named Memory, involving Ding Yi Music Company and May Poetry Club, is part of The Arts House’s Poetry with Music series.
Future Language Series
The Malay and Tamil-language editions of Poetry with Music series are planned for December 2017 and February 2018 respectively, while the English-language Note for Note will return as a regular programme in March 2018 with Marc Nair at helm as producer.
For more details: Download media release and details of the programme
 Note for Note was presented as part of The Arts House’s 13th anniversary celebration in March 2017. Curated and produced by Singapore writer and spoken Marc Nair, ten poets worked with skilled musicians of their choosing to craft a musical dialogue as the familiar tones of English poetry turn down a different road when set to melody.