Brain Pickings

E. E. Cummings Set to Song


“lovers go and lovers come/ awandering awondering/ but any two are perfectly alone/ there’s nobody else alive”

As a lover of the intersection of music and literature, I’m utterly enamored with the rain is a handsome animal — a magnificent new 17-movement song-cycle based on the poetry of E. E. Cummings by Tin Hat, composed of the inimitable violinist and vocalist Carla Kihlstedt (whom you might recall from recent Literary Jukebox volumes), guitarist Mark Orton, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, and Rob Reich on the accordion and piano.

Whimsical and unusual, with a cinematic quality and just the right amount of defiant idiosyncrasy, Kihlstedt’s haunting vocals and the extraordinary instrumentation add a whole new level of mesmerism to the familiar magic of the beloved poet. Though I was thrilled to find my favorite E. E. Cummings line, “down they forgot as up they grew” (from “anyone lived in a pretty how town”), I was most enchanted by the softly dreamsome “sweet spring” and the heart-warming “2 little whos” — though the entire album is absolutely exquisite.

the rain is a handsome animal is the finest musical homage to literature since Natalie Merchant’s Leave Your Sleep, based on Victorian children’s poetry, and is bound to remain on repeat for quite some time.

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