Like brothers

Whether a riff or a rhyme, the pattern on a quilt or the padding of a speech, for centuries, repetition is a motif that has defined artistic direction. Why so popular? On some level, we want endurance to define us.

On Tuesday at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, a night of words and music will work out well because of endurance. A strong connection between the past and the present defines the work of writer Peter Markus and musician Chris Moore. It also defines their relationship: Markus and Moore met in Detroit about 20 years ago as teenagers, both interested in the early 1980s hardcore scene. Since then, they’ve become like brothers.

Aside from serving as an excuse to get Moore into town and hang out, Markus says the evening at CAID is an attempt to turn “word-people” on to Moore’s music and “music-people” on to his own poetry.

Moore, a Detroiter now living in Brooklyn, is well-known in this city as the former drummer for Negative Approach. It’s questionable whether stale punk is the best way to work over our literary crowds, but there’s no doubt his recent recordings will do the trick. Last year’s Figurines was a spare recording, guided by Moore’s strained voice and the sound of a slide guitar easing the melodies forward. This year, he’s been working on a more expansive structure that has gotten looser — and definitely less rock ’n’ roll. You might even describe it as poetic.

Peter Markus’ poetry may also surprise a few musicians — though he’s not physically attached to an instrument, he is playing jazz. Just take a look at the structure of his poem, “The Singing Fish,” in which words and images echo each other:

Us brothers, what we see, inside this cave, we see pictures — stick-figure fish — on these mud-caved walls. These fish, stick-scrawled across made-out-of-mud walls — these fishes — they are pictures of us. These stick-figure fish with their round moon faces and their stick-figure arms and stick-figure legs, their stick-figure fingers sticking out of their stick-figure chests — oh yes, these fish, they are us.

Markus’ book of poems, also titled The Singing Fish, is a primitive dance between his childhood and man’s beginning. In his words, there’s little difference. History repeats itself and, as Faulkner said, the past is never past.


8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 27, at CAID, 1541 Rosa Parks, Detroit; 313-899-CAID.

Rebecca Mazzei is Metro Times arts editor. Send comments to [email protected]
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