Follow by Email

Friday, 17 March 2017

Raul Scacchi, Three Songs from "Minimanimalia"

 Raul Scacchi in Vitsa, Zagori

Raul Scacchi's final album project, on which he was still working when he became ill (before he so tragically died on 9 June, 2014), was devoted to animals and the cruel fate that many of them suffer because of human indifference. Raul had a deep love of all animals and he was totally committed to their welfare.

Gioia Roni Maestro Scacchi worked with talented colleagues and collaborators to produce a moving tribute to Raul, a bilingual (Italian and English) book and accompanying CD (2016).

Gioia has kindly given me permission to include three songs on my blog, as I had contributed three of my poems to the project, thinking they might fit with Raul's album concept, but I didn't know until after he died that Raul had started setting them to music ("The First Lyre", "21 Dolphins" and "Confessions of a Wanton Schoolboy"). Some of them I had rearranged or combined with a related poem of mine in the form of a song lyric (eg 21 Dolphins), or Raul made some minor adaptations or amendments (he added a verse of his own to my Confessions of a Wanton Schoolboy). We had collaborated very closely on earlier albums.

Here is a finished song from the CD which I particularly admire: Raul's setting and arrangement of Petrarch's sonnet, Una Candida Cerva. I claim no creative involvement in this masterpiece, other than that in January 2013 I had made the suggestion that he might compose a setting of the poem for the Minimanimalia project. He was originally planning to set an English translation. I persuaded him that the Italian poem was both more beautiful and more appropriate. I  knew the poem through the very free adaptation by Sir Thomas Wyatt (as well as the Petrarch source sonnet).

Listen to Una Candida Cerva

Two unfinished demo recordings of settings of my own poems follow. Gioia included them on the CD alongside finished compositions and more polished recordings, many of them with outstanding vocalists.

On these two tracks it is Raul himself who is tentatively laying down guide vocal tracks for unfinished early demos. I would love to hear finished and properly recorded versions, but it is moving to hear the composer developing his ideas in his own distinctive voice.

Listen to 21 Dolphins

Listen to The First Lyre

The original poems were published in "Corfu Blues", Ars Interpres, 2006.

"Twenty-One Dolphins" (or "Corfu Haiku") was also published in "The Haiku Hundred", Iron Press, 1992; new edition as "The Haiku Hundred, The Historic Collection", 2015.

"The First Lyre" (as a spoken poem) was broadcast on Dannie Abse's "Time for Verse", BBC Radio, September 2, 1987.

Discussion in Italian of the setting of my poem, The First Lyre, from 2.26 point

Raul Scacchi, official web-site (Gioia's tribute to the man and the artist).

Bipolar Bear

NEW! Raul sings Atherina in Greek

Poems from "Corfu Blues":

The First Lyre

I know now when the blues was born.

When Hermes stumbled on a tortoise

He thought "That's just what I've been looking for",

And he tore out its flesh with a chisel.

He emptied the shell, scraped the carapace clean,

A natural sound-box, but somewhat obscene.

What other animals did he not hesitate

To murder in the name of music?

He made two arms from the horns of a goat,

He stripped hide from an ox, stretched it over the shell.

He made seven strings from the guts of sheep,

And tautened them over a bridge.

He shaped a plectron of ivory, another of horn.

When he struck the strings, the sound was sweet.

As Hermes played, Apollo listened,

And at once his anger died.

But the animals howled and moaned -

Not at all the Orphic effect.

Apollo accepted the gift of the lyre,

And composed a hymn of praise.

But the god of music

Could not appease

The spirit of the tortoise.

The sheepgut strings,

The wild goat's horns

And the skin of the ox

Refused to serve his purpose.

He discovered the sound of a desperate Muse:-

And Lyric Poetry was born with the Blues.

Jim Potts

Corfu Haiku

Twenty-one dolphins danced in the harbour

The teacher

Kept on talking.

Jim Potts


Below, the longer song-lyric version of 21 Dolphins, in the form I sent it to Raul on 25 October, 2012. I asked Raul, "Are you interested in a song about dolphins? This is based on a haiku (the chorus) I wrote in Corfu in 1967, and a draft poem, much changed, that I wrote in Halkidiki in 1983 when the Ministry of Agriculture, in order to protect the fishing industry and the nation's nets, declared dolphins as pests. They paid out 600 drachmas then for every dolphin nose (or beak), that was cut off and presented to the officials".


Twenty one dolphins danced in the harbour.

The teacher kept on talking.

But the Minister says that dolphins are pests.

The Minister says they're no longer our friends.

Dolphins are outlawed, they're not welcome guests

They're no longer allowed near the ships or the shore...

They may have their own language

But they damage our nets.

The fishermen kill them,

But don't get upset...


Twenty one dolphins danced in the harbour.

The teacher kept on talking.

Jim Potts

See also: The World's Her Oyster (from Failed Expectations album)

See also: A Haunting Song

Raul's Studio, Sinarades, Corfu

Behind the oval window, the studio
 where Raul Scacchi made music and recorded some inspired albums.

No comments:

Post a Comment