Jason Kao Hwang




Thomas Buckner and Deanna Relyea

Innova 938




Music by Jason Kao Hwang

Poetry: Lester Afflick, Patricia Spears Jones and Davida Singer

Musicians: Deanna Relyea – voice, Piotr Michalowski – sopranino saxophone/bass clarinet with

EDGE: Taylor Ho Bynum – cornet/flugelhorn, Andrew Drury – drum set, Ken Filiano – string bass, Jason Kao Hwang – violin


1. nocturnal, poem by Davida Singer  7:19 

2. vertigo, poem by Davida Singer  4:05

3. Someone, poem by Lester Afflick  6:51

4. Days of Awe, poem by Patricia Spears Jones  6:48

5. I Raise Myself, poem by Lester Afflick  8:13


Words of Our Own

Music by Jason Kao Hwang

Poetry: Lester Afflick, Fay Chiang, Steve Dalachinsky, Patricia Spears Jones, Yuko Otomo

Musicians: Thomas Buckner – voice, Joe McPhee – tenor saxophone/pocket trumpet,

William Parker – string bass, Sang Won Park - kayagum/ajeng/voice, Jason Kao Hwang – viola


6.  Charles Gayle Trio @ Knitting Factory 7/20/92 (Vattel Cherry – bass, Marc Edwards – drums)

     poem by Steve Dalachinsky  1:30

7.  What You Know, poem by Patricia Spears Jones  2:40

8.  I Dream About You Baby (for C.H.), poem by Lester Afflick  4:14

9.  Father, poem by Fay Chiang  3:01

10.  in the wind there is a presence #2, poem by Steve Dalachinsky  3:44

11.  an excerpt from a rose is a rose (for Bruce Weber), poem by Yuko Otomo  12:16

12.  an excerpt from In Like Paradise/Out Like the Blues, poem by Patricia Spears Jones  3:18

13.  Gypsy Prayers, poem by Lester Afflick  6:59







Each of the poems I chose had a personal resonance. They felt like my voice speaking words of my own to express essences that I could not bring to consciousness before. I also heard music in them. All the poems have an inherent and unique flow of rhythms, textures and colors that would challenge and engage music. Aware of this dynamic, I composed sonic spaces that allowed each poem to fully resonate. These spaces created were always infused by improvisations, orchestrated for the unique voice of each musician & vocalist, and developed in direct correspondence with the poems’ evolution. Throughout each poem’s sonic architecture Deanna Relyea and Thomas Buckner were fully empowered to improvise so that the poems would truly become their words, which they chose to sing or speak. In this recording, each word is a sound and each sound is a poem. I am grateful for these indivisible vibrations that offered me lifelines to grow.


Jason Kao Hwang


There are voices that speak our thoughts, emotions and needs. They vibrate the air to deliver the contents. We speak and talk. We hear and listen. And there are other kinds of voices that are alive but mostly unheard. Some loud and intense, some soft, almost mute, all saying something that needs to be heard. Although heard by no one yet, they are definitely and clearly there. Poets gives them actual voices using their instrument: words. Poems come alive, when written, to be heard by all, including poets themselves. Every poem speaks a different story, creates a different landscape and brings in a different idea since everybody is unique.


And then, there are musicians and vocalists. They do a similar thing to what poets do. They hear unheard music, alive and well, but not yet shared with anyone. They make music to cause the unheard music to come alive using their  voices and instruments, alone and collectively. The music they create gives out vibrations to the air by dispersing the actual particles of sounds in it. This way, they deliver the story, the landscape and the idea once unheard to us as a living  breath.


This VOICE project is a very personal one in the most profound sense. It is a “first person” experience not just for Jason, but for everyone involved. That is why I prefer to call all the participating artists by their first names here. Jason heard his own voice that he could not express in words in the poems created by davida, Patricia, Fay, Lester, Steve and myself. When something “personal” goes deep enough to a certain degree, it reaches a tipping point where the “personal” changes itself into the “universal”.  He heard the voice and the music in these poems. So, he composed a sonic space inspired by his personal experience and invited his musician friends, vocalists, Deanna and Tom, instrumentalists, Joe, William, Sang, Piotr, Taylor, Andrew and Ken to share his experience. And this was the last recording his EDGE quartet (Jason, Taylor, Andrew & Ken) did before going on hiatus. How amazingly beautiful it is to see our personal voices once unheard being shared as universal voices with others in such an organic and empathetic way despite different backgrounds and personal histories!


VOICE has its own unique history. First created and premiered as “Words of Our Own” for Larry Ochs’s Words and Music series at the Stone NYC in March 2010, it was later performed again at A Gathering of Tribes in April 2010 and for the Interpretations sereis at Roulette in January 2012. “Lifelines” came into life soon after inspired by the Roulette performance. Commissioned by Edgefest, it premiered there in November 2012 and again was performed at the Stone, curated by Min Xiao-Fen, in December that same year. “Words of Our Own” was recorded in 2012 and “Lifelines” in 2014. VOICE is the resulting creative development of these projects. 


VOICE is also a community project. It grew out of the shared garden called New York City. Like a tree or a wild flower, it grew out of our commitments to our creative lives.  As for the poets and musicians involved here, we’ve all known each other one way or the other over the years through joys, struggles and a shared spirit to make the world a better place. Some of us met at various creative spaces such as Basement Workshop and A Gathering of Tribes, crossing the borders of genres and cultural differences. We all are extremely happy to have our beloved friend, Lester Afflick, who passed away much too young, as an integral part of this project. The poems included here are from his book of poetry: “I Dream about You Baby” edited by Marci Goodman and published by Steve Cannon’s Fly By Night Press posthumously with the support of his close friends.


Now, the voices, once unheard and impossible to reach, are here with us, welcoming us all to listen to them with open arms. Let us listen to them from every corner of our streets, memories and dreams. Here VOICE speaks to us in the most humble, personal and genuine timbres and tones, as we walk together or alone in this landscape called LIFE.




                                                                                                            Yuko Otomo





Music by Jason Kao Hwang  © p Flying Panda Music (BMI),  2015


Words of Our Own was created for Larry Ochs’s Words and Music series at the Stone in New York City, where it premiered on March 28, 2010.


Lifelines was commissioned by Kerrytown Concert House/Ann Arbor for Edgefest where it premiered on November 1, 2012.


Words of Our Own was recorded on January 14, 2012 and Lifelines on January 16, 2014, at Kaleidoscope Sound in Union City, NJ.


Recording Engineer for Words of Our Own: Sal Mormando

Recording Engineer for Lifelines: Kyle Cassel

Mixing Engineer: Jason Kao Hwang

Mastering Engineer: Paul Zinman, SoundByte Productions, Inc.


Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation

Philip Blackburn: director, design

Chris Campbell: operations manager

Steve McPherson: publicity



Special thanks: Gennevieve Lam, Marci Goodman, Larry Ochs, Deanna Relyea and Edgefest, Jim Staley and Roulette, Steve Cannon, Min Xiao-Fen, and A Gathering of Tribes. 


Poems by Lester Afflick © 2008 Estate of Lester Afflick 

© 1979 Father by Fay Chiang

© 2006 Poems by Steve Dalachinsky

© 2006 Days of Awe by Patricia Spears Jones

© 1995 In Like Paradise/Out like the Blues by Patricia Spears Jones

© 2000 a rose is a rose (for Bruce Weber) by Yuko Otomo 

© 2012 Poems by Davida Singer


by Davida Singer


in sleep

ravens with metallic sheen

flutter near her eyelids

she’s read

they have more calls/

than any animal


controllers of weather

prophets of calamity

but eskimos believed

ravens created light

flinging mica chips

into the sky


in dreams she flies


relentless as ravens

sleuth like

the scent of night

the sword edge glint of moon

in her hair

five houses from the beach

the earth cants cold

she hovers for a close-up

barely upright   tipsy

chasing after shadows


so now   she asks

what healing sonant

what measured notes

rite of augury

set of numbers

deck of cards

what book of runes

what kabbalistic sign

what incense burned

what candle lit

what planetary purl


she flies in dreams

trailing forecasts

ciphering time


what stroke   what speed

what mantra/meditation

air or ocean filled

what overflow

what holy fissure/destination

mode of transportation

then   what port

what port of call

can reshape/harbor destiny

before all sleek horizons

sink and fail



by Davida Singer


in a flashback

she’s high

higher than sequoias


that raven thing again

she passes glaciers

global scan

or divination

willing them to cleave

in the faltering ‘scape

she ducks  free fall

a spread of clouds

like cards

all read september 9th/

10th   in spades

hoist before the plunge

toes taut   pre dive

(pre birth pre bomb)

lynching   holocaust

fever on the run

earth about to waffle

at the brink

cosmic rift


last give of springboard

blink   before the rifle pull

pinch of a grenade


the telepathic ripple

the uneasy step

before judgment

the startling instant

of choice



by Lester Afflick



rising up,

giving off smoke,

blatant fire,

showing us his doom,

showing off –

a meaningless gyp,

a pox on him,

burn down his house,

if there is any,

burn it down



rising up,


tertiary articulations,

too much tongue,

cut out his tongue,

his tongue must be

cut out



somewhere else,

leaning on allusion,

a bevy of beasts

being led on,

& how they continue,

these clods



sifting through shivers,

cleaning his plate,

he will not come to a good end,

no matter what they say,

he will not come to a good end



not particularly anyone,

drowsy, duped,

leers back at himself,

sees what he hates,




& can’t go on –

& that’s always a story



rather ordinary this someone,

lips made of stone,

slabs of it,

drones his way

through the windy evening,


winding down,


he semaphores


& he’ll get it,

if they let him

he’ll get it



like any of those

who worship darkness,

following the woe

kneels inside

every empty temple

as he goes,


no hymn on the road–

gives himself back

to the black



in a cage somewhere

not knowing anyone else


he can plainly see

the swank,

deep-&-getting-deeper depths,

where dutiful angels spar

over nebulous carrion-

fever food-

then the night

& the night,

for a long time


the night


& then, someone...


Days of Awe

by Patricia Spears Jones


I feel as if my life were held together by wishful thinking

and krazy glue.  Somehow it works.

Somehow all our lives work.

Full moons or Fridays the 13th, mysterious are the ways of the spirit.

Or the ways we dream ourselves awake.


Each morning a cloudless day revels in the impossible,

the dispensation of shadows. It is a ruse. God gives

and God thinks things over. And while the pondering abides,

each of us has time to act one way or the other.

Give, get. Build, destroy. Laugh and laugh some more.


Splendor in the heavens, ashes on earth.

Love conjured, love lost.

Out of the corner of my myopic right eye, I spy

a white van curving towards me, Sebastian at the wheel.

Face unscarred, but that’s not the real story.

Out of the Bronx, into the modest comforts of Brooklyn,

he smiles the smile of a man redeemed in blood.


We do not stand still. The last of the roses open petulantly,

daring summer to end. Oh days of uncommon beauty,

when the knotted heart unties itself. As trees old and young

starve their leaves into gold, flame, rust. 


- For Cynthia Kraman




by Lester Afflick


From tides behind time

from planet heart

from dark blood-leaf

I raise myself


from the lice-cell

from deep inside the blood-curlicues

from the great glaciers of nothing

I raise myself


from stones that seep and seep

from those places I knelt at

from the memories I like to forget

I raise myself


from fevered psalms

from the places where light rust

from the ash ark

I raise myself


from the heat of the pits

from the pure heat

from what cauls and what cringes

I raise myself


from campaniles

from glass faces of God

from the leeching din

I raise myself


from the misguided compasses I use

from cracked empty kilns

from deep daylight thirst

I raise myself


from still plain without border

from rope of long arms

from tongues still tongues

I raise myself


from breath-ridges with hymn

from plain windows of hurt

from dust useless dust

I raise myself


from what I refuse as what I own

from winds that chisel this stone that this heart is

from sweet salves I cannot name

I raise myself


from these little temples my eyes

from what I thought was too silent and it was

from mountains that break hands

I raise myself


from bone harps

from blood harps

from icy icy music

I raise myself


from vast concrete

from out of this freed land

from this urn that is this body

I raise myself


I raise myself by myself

I am risen


Charles Gayle Trio @ The Knitting Factory 7/20/92

(Vattel Cherry – bass, Marc Edwards – drums)

by Steve Dalachinsky


deaf   dumb   blind   cripple  steeple

want to go scrape the secret off the wall


this is not now & forever

this is dis lo-ca-tion

this trial is no less a trial of peers

the walls sing with torture

the halls ring with faces of hate

                      we came here yesterday

        & plan to stay for as long as

                   there is


don’t talk too softly of the coming

don’t expect to be lead toward the door

                                deaf dumb     cripple blind

                drawn & shade

                              pulled down so low

                                     the window no longer there


                    this walk is a false perspective

                       an oversized step in a small landscape

                      there is nothing to blow out

                                                                              except the light


What You Know

by Patricia Spears Jones


It is not the memory I can conjure

daily destruction, daily dope,

Saigon in spring. In summer, heat too much.


What you give are your poems

each a piece of the stone

that was your heart


I have no way of finding

that point of pain,

crystalline as methedrine,

steady as a tropical rain.


There are prayers, say some, strong enough

to shake blood from your hands

death from your eyes


You do what you can and, sometimes,

you make music


as volcanic as a boy’s laughing fit.

Your walk is the walk of a man in need of gravity,

you smile. And back of your talk is the blues.


ancient, bold.  Hellhounds on your tail?

Each one snarls a signature note from the man in Mississippi

who knew what you know, who could see straight

through the thick tobacco smoke, the club’s

hard red-light glow,

to the lit-up forehead of a woman waiting to love


(for C.H.)

by Lester Afflick


On that rocky coast


you were

we were

the house was stone

while the wind wild

and terrifyingly demented



the goats

quibbled like goats


on the mountain

and the one fig tree

grew cold


no sustenance there


and the sea said

see the sea




see the sea


and even the sea

no mantra

for what ailed me

kneaded itself

feeding itself

so I heeded myself


thinking I was talking about tone

thinking I was talking about quiet


and all the time

all that kept me alive


was you



by Fay Chiang


his long tapered fingers

    guide my young hand curved around

     bamboo brush pen

           to form my name in Chinese:

              family name: chiang: from northern china, we came

                                        south on tamed wild horses and

                                        became farmers


              middle name: wei: shared by you and your sisters,


              and your own ping:  for peace or plains of green field


bits of characters:

         grass, heart, three dots of water, woods, home


write again and again, your name,

               that you may never forget it



september 1978




in the wind there is a presence #2

by Steve Dalachinsky


in the wind there is a presence

an unseen force that binds

us to the earth

an unheard force

that binds us to the trees

a forced presence

that binds us to the clouds


in the mouth there is an understanding of tongues

      a hand-me down scene

                  a pastoral entangling

in the breath there is the wind       that binds us

                         to the sky

that brings us toward the storm

& wraps us in the eye

that levels us to the ground

     & makes us even &


                              & humble & held

                  in its




an excerpt from

a rose is a rose    (for Bruce Weber)

 by Yuko Otomo





walking home


holding a tiny red rose

the size of a button

between the thumb & index finger


I thought of smell,

not fragrance


the smell of skin, thighs, hair, armpits

the smell of unkempt bed, rotten fruit, rotten meat

the familiar smell of childhood memories

conjured up to conquer my senses

but I could not tell

whether it was the smell of the sea

or the hill


so I kept walking





a woman loses herself

between the pages she is reading

for a second


a rose lay alone on the floor

a few feet away from her


she wanders around

with no purpose or aim

in a pool of her own melancholy


in the afternoon room


she is very alone





a poet died

stung by a rose thorn


he watched blood flow from flesh

& thought it was charming

he observed the slow process

as if it were some poisonous nostalgia

he was familiar with

when the word “River” visited his mind

he all of a sudden

felt sleepy


so he laid himself down quietly

giving up his will & conscience






a rose bud

does not talk

of silence


it breathes it


a vase is mute & obedient

in it’s own shadow

holding a rose’s breath






petals on petals

colors within colors

I live by the rose bushes in my mind -


an approaching storm

can only illuminate their profiled beauty

& I mirror my own profile on it












                    virtue and vice


dreaming of rose-scented myths and legends

I eat a loaf of bread

sweetened with rose jam






a rose is a rose is a rose


when we bury ourselves

in roses

in a wheel barrow


we become a song cycle in a rondo


a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose

pink crimson, yellow, white & red


alone or in a bundle

cut or rooted


a rose is a rose is

always an abundance of luminosity









Excerpt from

In Like Paradise/ Out Like the Blues

by Patricia Spears Jones



Stars are like flowers in the desert.

They shiver fresh in the aeon knowing

that they will become memory, hunger.

the core of dreams.


It is up to me, then, to bring back their beauty:

taut, seamless before the eyes of men and women

To amplify the vitality of their illumination

(righteous shimmer above melancholy clouds)

To remind humanity that without them

night would never come




The death of a star like the death of a flower

is awesome, ugly, a relentless warning.


Artists make whole somehow the ways

in which dreams persist

Each of us turns to the hunger of stars

and wipes the crumbs from our mouths.


On canvas, they laugh like children.

In essence, they scream like children.  And struggle

like children to eat, grow, copulate, then flash out.

A name perhaps.  A body gone.


















by Lester Afflick


Lantern Lord guide

this last light

that goes south


Speak to me not only from far

and I will kneel until

my skin has learnt

its own language from

its own memory


Love me O Lord

as you love my soul

and I shall be good for something