Ursula K. Le Guin and Todd Barton create music and poetry from another world on a new LP for RVNG Intl.’s Freedom To Spend imprint

Ursula K. Le Guin and Todd Barton create music and poetry from another world on a new LP for RVNG Intl.'s Freedom To Spend imprint
A new album of Ursula K. Le Guin's alien poetry and otherworldly music is coming down the pipe (Photo: Brian Attebery)

The recent loss of Ursula K. Le Guin was so impactful and so devastating that we at TMT are still reeling from it. Le Guin was a supernatural force not only of literature, but of philosophy, justice, and the human imagination. Her work created entire worlds, entire peoples whose existence taught us about our own. Simply put: she was a badass. To celebrate her life in this exact vein, Pete Swanson’s Freedom to Spend (a sub-label of RVNG Intl.) will be releasing Music and Poetry of the Kesh on LP this March 23.

Music and Poetry of the Kesh is more than just a collaborative album between Le Guin and Buchla synthesist Todd Barton — it is an anthropology and mythos of an imagined Pacific Coast peoples from an ancient time: the Kesh. Its alien words, invented and read aloud by Le Guin, together with recorded and synthesized sounds contributed by Barton, serve as an audio companion to Le Guin’s 1985 novel Always Coming Home, and its 13 pieces soundtrack the tale of “Stone Telling,” a young Kesh woman living within Le Guin’s intricately-woven lore.

This release is a project that has grown under Le Guin’s direction for some time and is now being released with approval from her surviving family. The research and respect — both to Le Guin’s folklore and to the realities of indigenous Californians — is an obvious focus for the project and the label, as it was for Le Guin too. According to the liner notes contributed by writer Moe Bowstern, many sounds contributed by Barton came from instruments he built himself as per Le Guin’s designs, including the seven-foot horn known to the Kesh as the Houmbúta and the Wéosai Medoud Teyahi bone flute.

Le Guin’s fans will be entreated by the physical LP, which includes illustrations by Le Guin herself and a letterpressed bookmark featuring the the narrative modes of western civilization and the Kesh valley. You can pre-order the record on LP and digital here, and you can stream a new video for “A Teaching Poem” and “Heron Dance” down below.

Additionally, Barton — along with members of Le Guin’s family — will join Visible Cloaks on April 6 at the Leaven Community Center of Portland, OR with songs, readings, and recollections to celebrate the life of Le Guin and this new release.

Music and Poetry of the Kesh is, if you somehow needed it, more proof that Le Guin’s worlds will live forever. Long live Ursula!


Music and Poetry of the Kesh tracklisting:

01. Heron Dance
02. Twilight Song
03. Yes—Singing
04. Dragonfly Song
05. A Homesick Song
06. The Willows
07. Lullaby—Lahela
08. Long Singing
09. The Quail Song
10. A Teaching Poem
11. A River Song
12. Sun Dance Poem
13. A Music of the Eighth House

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