Christian Kaltwasser, composer
Sharing a poem I wrote a few years ago. Imagery of a concert/recital. What do you find striking during a live performance? What do you look at? Hear? Feel?
Pale skin over bones and air, blood pumping organs,
hair and fingernails, a smear of lipstick, eyeglasses,
someone plays flute in a recital.
Sounds appear, new music.
Virtually a virtuosic bird and teakettle serenade this
They like to play.
They catch a breath.
Copyright © 2019, Christian T. Kaltwasser.
In honor of World Poetry Day 2019, a poem I wrote:
This is where I wrote my poem,
this craggy, jagged sidewalk:
brown and gray with pebbled,
oil-soaked patches, and near the yellow-painted curb,
whose rotted cigarette stumps and
empty soda cans are
left for birds who sing and chirp
in the friendly treetops.
A stop sign presents red octagonality
near a woman. She walks and turns, looking
at house numbers, then finds her car and leaves.
Nonetheless, thin, silken wisps and bright sky above
hang gilded by the almost-spring sun,
this Sunday evening, shortly ’til seven.
Streetlamps lack their illumination.
Themselves ashen, they cast slender shadows.
Gangly green weeds sprung from recent rains
crack the blacktop’s edge, each an
image of the imperturbable.
An engine starts.
A bird answers.
A green car rounds the sigiled street corner.
As one arrives, someone else leaves.
Copyright © 2015, Christian T. Kaltwasser.
It may seem an odd time to be sharing a poem about flowers, but this poem I wrote this summer came to mind recently so I decided to share it. I hope you may find it interesting.
Pink, round roses in the morning’s summer sun
rival hydrangeas for ornament,
but stand unrivaled for scent.
A sweet feminine redolence,
it brings to mind mothers and girls,
antique tight buds
on china plates,
weddings, romances, the notions of love
and simple times, a reverie.
I made a plastic rose
stitched green yarn through a styrofoam platter,
glued egg carton petals on,
and perfected the illusion with a
spray of air freshener from the bathroom.
I remember years of summers and many roses,
given roses, held roses,
dried and displayed to commemorate
a cherished loved one.
Always they were given and shared in this
purpose of affirmation, the pink ones
and the reddest ones.
Summers and roses last an earnest few weeks.
When cared for and enjoyed,
their meaning and experience may endure a lifetime.
Copyright © 2017, Christian T. Kaltwasser.
Thought I’d share a poem I wrote this morning, especially since I haven’t posted here for a while!
Fall Morning Walk
Late summer roses, pink and red,
layer the air with sweetness,
as curled brown leaves crunch under boot.
The late morning sky has cleared of clouds, so
shadows angle amidst the grasses, glistening
green under leftover morning dew.
The dark-pined hills wear a veil of gray-blue smoke,
while yellowing tree leaves dangle above the path.
Complex aromas commingle: rotting apples
and rain-touched soil.
Footsteps echo crisply. A dog barks.
Two or three birds chirp to nearby ears.
The bright flag stands flat, draped down the tall pole
amidst the calm morning air.
I didn’t take the direct path to music – not by a long-shot. Many people can probably relate to this. I have learned along the way that you don’t need to feel especially burdened or like an oddball just because you come to something a bit later in life. For me this was an especially humbling lesson, because I was called “gifted” from an early age and started to expect a lot of myself by about the fifth grade or so.
In elementary school, I was given opportunities to explore many subjects outside the regular classroom routine. For example, in math I was given a textbook and set outside in either the library or the common assembly area along with one other advanced student to work through the problems at my own pace. I think it became a bit of a race between the two of us to see who could finish the book first.
I was also artistic and liked to draw and work with modeling clay. And I played violin in the school “orchestra,” which consisted of just myself and one other student during my sixth grade year. We learned a few songs and the basics of how to read music, and how to play one or two scales. That is all I remember from that time. So graduating to seventh grade and middle school orchestra was a big jump forward for me in music.
Some time around seventh or eighth grade I started to have my own ideas for compositions and tried to write them down. I have some scraps of paper with very basic notation drawn in pencil from this time. They were mostly abstract melodies, like you might find in an orchestra or solo piano piece. In most I tried to capture a mood. Apparently a predominant mood for me during that time was the burden of homework, because I titled two of the more ponderous tunes “drudgery”!
I also became fascinated with poetry starting in the seventh or eighth grade, and fancied myself for a while as a young budding poet!
In middle school I took all the art classes I could. I still have a few drawings and small clay sculptures I made during this time. I spent a lot of my spare time teaching myself to program on the Apple II computer, because I had discovered from about the age of 10 what kinds of cool drawings and animations you could create on a computer. I was also fascinated with language recognition and tried with some success to write my own interactive fiction games in which you type an instruction into the computer and it tells you the story of what happens next.
My father encouraged me to pursue computer programming as a possible career, but I was unsure it was a good path for me. From the research I had done, it seemed to lead to areas that did not thrill me much, like database management and data analysis. These were things for business, and things I did not much understand back then. I am sure I thought also about doing something creative along the lines of graphic design and/or computer animation. I was also interested in making music on the computer, but had not found that to be very productive yet (this was the late 80s and early 90s, and I had no exposure to the higher end music software of the time). I think I did not work with a computer system that could really make music until some time in college.
Meanwhile, from the seventh through eleventh grades I played in the school orchestra. I started private violin lessons around the ninth grade or so. I was never quite the best player in my classes, and had mediocre practice habits, but enjoyed it fairly well, especially for the camaraderie. I was given a concerto solo to play in the eleventh or twelfth grade, at which point my class schedule didn’t allow me to continue in orchestra, because my math class was only offered during the same period.
I had continued in the advanced track in math from middle school through high school. By twelfth grade I was taking first year calculus, and doing quite well in it. I had started participating in regional math competitions in the eighth grade, and found them rewarding. I was somewhat competitive, and they helped me feel “smart.” There’s definitely a satisfaction to being able to understand something that intimidates most people. This is something that appealed to me about both math and computers, so I spent a lot of energy in both while in school.
Both of my parents were or had been teachers, so I thought a lot about maybe being one as a career. But I was socially awkward and shy and found the idea of teaching intimidating. When choosing a college major I was drawn to the sciences in general, but was encouraged to also take computer classes and get a second degree in computer science. Because I came to college with AP exam credits equal to almost a full year, I graduated from Oregon State after only four years with degrees in both math and computer science.
So what about my music during all of this? I will leave that for my next post.
In honor of the month of April (now over…) I decided to polish off this live recording from a very well done performance at WOU. Thanks again to Cheeka and Ashlee for doing such a great job!
The text of this song is a 1915 poem by Sara Teasdale. The music is made up of a series of notes that I reverse in the middle verse, like a musical palindrome.