I have another date for your virtual diaries: Thur 7 May, 7pm. Please do join me online for a live streamed gig, hosted by The London Library.
If she were still with us, Angela Carter would have turned 80 this May and 7 May would have been her birthday. I was scheduled to celebrate by performing at The British Library alongside the singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams and the novelist Kirsty Logan, showcasing a collaborative musico-literary project we’ve been hatching (pardon the pun) inspired by Carter’s ‘Nights at the Circus’. God willing, we will bring it to you in good time.
In the meantime, I have been working on my own separate project, ‘Invisible Music’ – my PhD – exploring how being a folk singer affected the way Carter wrote her prose. I discovered that she was a folk singer in the 1960s and embarked on a big research project thanks to an incredibly generous research grant from CHASE, the Consortium for Humanities and the Arts South East. Along the way, I couldn’t help but sing the songs I was writing about, to better understand their impact. I have made an album of these songs alongside pertinent readings from Carter’s fiction, to bolster my research.
I was always planning to play at the London Library around this time, one show designed to complement the other. But now, because of current events, it stands alone, and has moved online, and to the day that matters most, Carter’s birthday.
I feel very honoured to be able to make this tribute to her, which also marks the beginning of my small contribution to the rich critical conversation which her works continue to inspire and provoke.
And to make this even better, Kathryn Williams and Kirsty Logan are contributing their beautiful reading voices to the gig, reading extracts from Carter’s work.
Polly Paulusma will be releasing a new album in late spring 2020 entitled Invisible music – folk songs that influenced Angela Carter.
‘Invisible Music’ is an album of folk songs and spoken word recorded with help from Jack Harris (guitar), Jed Bevington (fiddle) and John Parker (upright bass) and containing readings from singer songwriter Kathryn Williams and novelist Kirsty Logan.
‘Invisible Music’ is a songwriter’s celebration of the musicality of her favourite novelist. Paulusma champions and showcases musicality in the prose of Angela Carter, one of the twentieth century’s finest novelists. She illustrates through sounded examples the recent discoveries she’s made — that Carter was a folk singer during the 1960s folk revival, and that her writing was profoundly influenced by the performing of traditional folk song.
Some of the folk songs that influenced Carter — for example ‘Barbary Allen’, ‘Lucy Wan’, and ‘The Banks of Red Roses’ — are rendered here by Paulusma who, for six years, has been researching the effects of singing folk songs on Carter’s prose style at the University of East Anglia. Prose passages read by Paulusma, the songwriter Kathryn Williams and the novelist Kirsty Logan are interspersed between the songs, illustrating how Carter’s prose absorbed the themes, images and rhythms of folk song.
Paulusma, who teaches Cambridge English students between releasing records, explains, “I have never really seen the difference between great literature and great song. For me, reading is and always has been an audial experience. Some writers are just more musical than others.” Paulusma’s work asks us to reimagine Carter’s prose as performance, to recreate the ‘invisible music’ of Carter’s prose every time we read her, in a dynamic exchange of trust and understanding, a reverberation through space and time, a sympathetic resonance.
Paulusma released her first album, ‘Scissors in my Pocket’ on One Little Indian to widespread international critical acclaim in 2004. Uncut declared, “Never mind all the fuss about Joss Stone and Amy Winehouse. As far as Uncut is concerned, the finest young British female singer-songwriter to emerge in the last 12 months is the brainy Cambridge graduate Polly Paulusma, with a debut album of mature and literate songs brimful of emotional resonance, potent melodies and meltingly heartfelt vocals.” Paulusma was subsequently catapulted round the world, supporting Bob Dylan, Jamie Cullum, Coldplay and Marianne Faithfull, touring the USA and Europe, and playing Glastonbury, T in the Park and Cambridge Folk Festival. ‘Fingers and Thumbs’ followed in 2007, produced by Ken Nelson, and in 2012 founded the Wild Sound folk label and released the work of nine other artists before becoming a folk imprint at One Little Indian in 2016. ‘Invisible Music’ will be Paulusma’s eighth album release.
‘Invisible Music’ will be released on Wild Sound, a folk imprint at One Little Indian Records.
Photo by Annie Dressner of Cambridge Headshot Photography.