We recently published a piece here at Edge about local poet Bigg Wash and his album release show. After listening to the album I started thinking about spoken word and all the ways it can be utilized. Lover of playlists that I am, I embarked down a rabbit hole in search of interesting and varied spoken word tracks for an Edge playlist. Contained within are 9 tracks that encompass comedy, poetry and everything in between. It’s a wonderful mish-mash of absurdity and creative talent. So let me give you some track by track context to help you through it.
- Thank You Body, Simple Ways to Relax – Eugene Mirman
This track is from comedian Eugene Mirman’s recent concept album that contains over 250 tracks (which I semi-regrettably own a very expensive vinyl copy of). This track is from the portion where he records a mostly nonsensical guided meditation. As such, don’t expect to actually be relaxed by it, but you should be entertained.
2. Macdougal Street Blues – Jack Kerouac
This track comes from the acclaimed writer of the 1950’s, Jack Kerouac. It’s a nice bit of poetry with a bit of musical accompaniment. It is also an interesting window into a very specific time in American history (and literature) from one of the masters of the best generation.
3. Wooden Heart – Listener
This is a great example of the blending of spoken poetry with music from the Arkansas based band, Listener. The off-kilter delivery with that slight southern twang to it and the very steady, calming music create something different than just music or poetry alone could.
4. Zen: A Samurai Story – Joseph Campbell
It may seem odd to include a lecture in this playlist, but lectures can be just as interesting as a song or a joke or a poem. This particular snippet in which Joseph Campbell relays the tale of a Samurai on a mission captured my attention and is worth the listen. Apologies about the library information at the end of the track. I felt like I needed to include it anyway. You can just skip that part to maintain the flow of the playlist.
5. If I Wrote About You, I’d Write a Book – Mark Kozelek
Mark Kozelek is also known by Sun Kill Moon in his musical ventures. He has a very distinct, rough voice which he lends to this track. The album it comes from was a compilation which raised money for homeless children in Argentina and 11 of the tracks were written by Argentinian children themselves.
6. A Grain of Truth in Every Song – Cat Power
Interview is also a very powerful form of spoken word. This is an interview snippet from Cat Power, or Charlyn Marie Marshall, a songwriter who emerged in the 90’s and still produces music today. This track is an interview about her creative process that actually lends insight into the songwriting process in general, not just how it pertains to her.
7. Elegant Balloons – Paul F. Thompkins
A spoken word playlist needs some comedy and Paul F. Thompkins is a wonderfully absurd comedian with a very distinct voice that could cause laughter by itself. This track about a balloon store is pure childish comedy.
8. No Problem – Muhammad Ali
Speaking of funny, this classic clip of Muhammad Ali is the poetry of spoken word in action. During his career, Muhammad Ali was a master at creating theatricality out of his interactions with the press. You’ve probably heard at least some of this speech before because it’s such a classic. I couldn’t in good conscious leave it out of this playlist.
9. They Will Call You – Nick Thune
We come now to a wonderful piece of musical comedy from Nick Thune. This joke about the ritual of thank you notes accompanied by guitar is the kind of dumb humor that you can’t help but laugh at. His deadpan telling of it just adds to the ridiculousness of it. There’s no better way to end a playlist than with a good laugh.