First Song

by Andrew Bird

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With his distinctive fusion of violin, glockenspiel, singing, and whistling, Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird is at the forefront of the indie-folk renaissance.  Featured here is “First Song,” recorded on Bird’s 2003 album Weather Systems.

“First Song” is a variation of Galway Kinnell’s poem of the same name, published in his first collection of poems, What a Kingdom It Was (1960).  “First Song,” beginning with the lines, “Then it was dusk in Illinois, the small boy / After an afternoon of carting dung / Hung on the rail fence,” is an homage to Bird’s home state of Illinois, and even more so to childhood, as “from the fields two small / Boys came bearing cornstalk violins / And they rubbed the cornstalk bows with resins.”  The image of companionship is given over, in the poem’s last lines, to the revelatory yet solitary act of music, where “A boy’s hunched body loved out of a stalk / The first song of his happiness, and the song woke / His heart to the darkness and into the sadness of joy.”

We are proud to showcase “First Song,” an intersection between one of our favorite poets and one of our favorite musicians.  www.andrewbird.netZachary Greenberg


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