It's an audacious move, putting the words of one of the 20th century's greatest poets to music. All those who are familiar with the words have their own perceptions of the images, and -- on some level -- a feeling of the settings they should have. With just voice, piano, and a little percussion, Souza imposes her own vision on the poems of Pablo Neruda, as she has before on the work of Elizabeth Bishop, and it can initially seem strange and take listeners by surprise, as on the relatively upbeat and busy "House." "We Are Many" is imagined as almost an art song. Translating poetry to song is difficult, especially this work, with no regular rhythm or meter, and that's reflected in the tidal shifts of "Sonnet 99." There's true adventure in "I Will Come Back," sung over only percussion, a jaunty beat that's a celebration of life, rather than a commiseration of death. On "Sonnet 49" she employs marimba, giving a stately exoticism to the music. Souza, who composed all the music, has an artist's ear and a real sense of beauty in addition to a moving voice. These aren't songs you sing along with; instead, their sometimes wandering melodies focus the ear on the lyrics, which is exactly as it should be. The closest this comes to a conventional structure is with the aching "Loneliness," which could translate into a future cabaret standard. Overall, this is obviously a project that comes from the heart and soul, a labor of love that proves that following the heart can bring forth wondrous things.
by Chris Nickson