the signal house
contributing artist - Rachel Rodrigues
‘Moonlight in Vermont’, the 1944 jazz standard written by John Blackburn, is somewhat of an anomaly in the American Songbook. It contains not a single rhyme. Moreover, the A sections (the song follows the common structure AABA) are haiku.
Pennies in a stream,
Falling leaves of a sycamore,
Moonlight in Vermont.
Icey finger waves,
Ski trails on a mountain side,
Snowlight in Vermont.
In a recent performance at a downstairs jazz cave in West London, singer Hetty Kate introduced the song as ‘delicious’ to sing. It was delicious to hear, Kate’s rich, playful vocals weaving like a moonlight skater amid bass and piano, the rich aroma of maple and chimney smoke seemingly filling the air.
Under the spell of the ancient 5,7,5 syllable form, used in the Japanese tradition specifically to invoke images of nature and the changing of the seasons, all versions of the song seem to urge a sense of a landscape to mind.
In their 1956 recording, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong unfurl the song as a languid, laughing porch exchange, the words dancing leaf like between them. A year later, in a version by Billie Holiday, singing at the end of her life, trembling charred vocals rest on the words like a solo winter walker soothed by the sudden sight of an owl. In 1978, on the album ‘Stardust’, Willie Nelson haunts the break with a harmonica, summoned with the slow progress of a homecoming train.
In the Autumn Issue of The Signal House Edition, the transformation and transforming power of landscape is contemplated in different ways.
In a new poem, Verity Laughton goes in hot pursuit of a missing muse; in her short story The Mushroom Hunters Lauren Collee takes us into the depths of a European forest at night; Kit Brookman contemplates the terrain of a new and challenging England upon returning home after a long journey; Stephen Christopher, the winner of our monologue competition in collaboration with Edinburgh writing incubator Page 2 Stage, charts a journey away from and then towards a father’s love; and our cover artist Philippe Halaburda talks to us about how psychogeography informs his practice and his life.
In a season of change, we hope these pieces give pause for thought about how we map and orient ourselves in our surroundings, and how we are in turn changed by them.