Severance Songs

by Robert Gomez

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The album Severance Songs is my interpretation of five selections from Pulitzer-Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler’s 2006 book, Severance. The collection of sixty-two prose poems, from which I’ve chosen five, represent the final thoughts from the severed heads of fictional and non-fictional characters, presented as a dense unpunctuated outburst of memory and reflection, revealing what each character holds dear as well as the missteps that haunt them.

Each selection consists of 240 words. A number Butler arrives upon by two important epigraphs that preface the poems:

"After careful study and due deliberation it is my opinion the head remains conscious for one minute and a half after decapitation".--Dr. Dassy D'Estaing, 1883

"In a heightened state of emotion, we speak at the rate of 160 words"--Dr. Emily Reasoner, A Scourcebook of Speech, 1975

Although not familiar with the work of Butler when I discovered this book it was only after a few times through Severance that I decided to make it my musical focus for what would become the next year and a half. Adapting a poem to song was all very new to me and as a result took me to interesting places especially in regards to form, melodic arc and phrasing. This project also took me to Florida where I would get to spend time with the author in his home , marvel at his collection of hot sauces and hold his Pulitzer Prize in my hand.

In honor of Robert Olen Butler’s Severance poetry, this statement is exactly 240 words.


released November 6, 2012

Words by Robert Olen Butler



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Robert Gomez Seattle, Washington

Robert Gomez is a songwriter, multi- instrumentalist musician from Seattle, WA. Besides writing and performing his own music he has performed both live and on recordings with numerous other artists including Sarah Jaffe, John Grant, Centro-matic, Baptist Generals, Norah Jones, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, and Tico da Costa/ Phillip Glass. ... more

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Track Name: CHARLES H. STUART Texas farmer, beheaded by his two teenage daughters, 1904
Words by Robert Olen Butler
Track Name: CHICKEN Americauna pullet, beheaded in Alabama for Sunday dinner, 1958
Words by Robert Olen Butler
Track Name: ROBERT KORNBLUTH Senior partner in advertising firm, decapitated by elevator, 1984
Words by Robert Olen Butler