It wasn’t a completely new idea: Pianist and local jazz icon Monika Herzig playing along with poet Norbert Krapf’s readings. (They next perform together at Boulevard Place Café, 4155 Boulevard Place, 7 p.m., $5 cover.)
Certainly music and poetry have worked together before. But their collaboration — now being recorded as an album, Imagine: Indiana in Music and Words — is a distinctly local product. It’s lyrical and poetic, a love letter for Indiana and its roads unseen, unknown, everything from Etheridge Knight to Crown Hill to southern Indiana landscapes. Separately the poems and music stand strong; leaning on each other they are a gestalt larger than the sum of its parts, finding a distinctive rhythm in playing off each other.
“It makes you perform the poems in a different way,” Krapf said. “It gives you a different beat. I think it makes you more conscious of the rhythm of the poetry. There’s something about the scene here in Indianapolis that really grabs you. People don’t realize how vibrant it is. People here have an inferiority complex, but there’s a lot going on here, and I’m very happy to be part of it. I love getting beyond poetry; I love collaborating with musicians.”
The collaboration began with a jazz class taught by Herzig, when she began to read some of Krapf’s work and found inspiration in some of the deeply personal material.
“He gave me this poem called ‘Sisters,’ about his stillborn sister, and I read it and realized I’d written this song called ‘The Third Passenger,’ about my miscarriage,” Herzig said. “I thought, there’s music and words, and how much more powerful can they be together?”