Pure Water: Poetry of Rumi | Audio CD, recorded live at Williams College, featuring translator Coleman Barks and cellist Eugene Friesen (Tupelo Press) $16
This collaboration between Coleman Barks and Eugene Friesen creates an engaging new experience of Barks’ Rumi translations. With the translator’s deep, rich voice and the cellist’s exceptional playing, the piece is sonically enjoyable and moving. While excellently performed, the music itself is contrived, uninspired, and oftentimes overly simplistic in its attempts to convey the meaning of the poems, rather than responding to them more organically. For such a work to create a satisfying experience, the musical composition (as well as the various pieces by other composers that Friesen incorporates) needs to be strong in the same way as the poetry. Unfortunately it’s not, and what is left is a shallowness made more poignant by its placement alongside the poetry of Rumi. Barks’ translations are critically well regarded, and the small sampling included on this CD prove why. His reading is characterized by insightful phrasing, but the incorporation of his own poems degrades the holistic nature of the performance, breaking from the tone and artistic integrity of an otherwise splendid portrayal.
Adrian Wong is a professional violist in Los Angeles, California.