This Aster–Adaptations of Emile Nelligan (LP)
Performers: Brian Laidlaw and The Family Trade
Publisher: Fonograf Editions (2021)
This Aster is a suite of songs based on poems by the French-Canadian poet Emile Nelligan. Nelligan was born in Montreal on Christmas Eve, 1879; he published his first poems at sixteen, and was heralded as a rising star of Canadian literature. The poet produced his entire oeuvre by the age of nineteen, and was then, at twenty, abruptly committed to a mental hospital. Nelligan remained in the asylum for the rest of his life, and never wrote again.
A century later, poet-songwriter Brian Laidlaw was offered a Hinge Artist Residency to live and work on the grounds of a different mental hospital—the Kirkbride, in Northern Minnesota—for a stretch of several weeks, translating Nelligan’s poems from French into English, and then setting the texts to music. Working with his chamber-folk ensemble The Family Trade, the band tracked This Aster onsite, recording everywhere from closets to cathedrals. The resulting tracks—full of haunted choirs, sweeping strings, and apocalyptic trumpets—are an attempt to capture in English-language music the stirring effects that Nelligan himself created in his original French-language poetry.
This Aster dwells in the perpetual autumn of that remarkable work: a soundscape of ghosts and snowfall, love and loss, and the golden rattle of falling leaves.