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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Friday, July 25, 2014

Poetry and music: ever the twain shall meet

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Posted: Friday, January 10, 2014 5:00 am

For centuries, poets and composers have been practically joined at the hip. In their pure forms, poems and musical compositions are entirely self-sufficient. Emily Dickinson can say “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” and readers don’t need a C-sharp or an E-flat to help them grasp the line. Of course, that hasn’t kept composers from providing exactly that; among the 20 or so art-song settings of that little poem, we find entries by such notables as Vincent Persichetti and Augusta Read Thomas. On the flip side, the instrumental pieces of the masters — sonatas, symphonies, chamber music — get by perfectly well outside the verbal realm, although we may be grateful nonetheless for the music appreciationist Sigmund Spaeth, who fitted mnemonic rhymes to the themes of such otherwise textless musical monuments (“Beethoven still is great/In the symphony he numbered eight …”).

Indeed, Beethoven himself crossed the verbal divide, if not in the symphony he numbered eight then at least in the symphony he numbered nine, with its famous choral finale based on Schiller’s ode “An die Freude” (To Joy). Certainly Schiller’s hopeful verses clarify that Beethoven’s concluding symphony was conceived as an outcry in support of brotherhood and humanitarianism, a point that four soloists and a chorus can make more unambiguously than can a conglomeration of violins, clarinets, and trombones. Still, not everyone agreed unreservedly on this count. Consider Giuseppe Verdi’s remark, “The alpha and omega is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, marvelous in the first three movements, very badly set in the last.”

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2 comments:

  • Matthew F. Blowers III posted at 8:18 pm on Sun, Jan 12, 2014.

    ArtWhimsically Yours Studio Posts: 2

    No more than a man
    could number the stars When they are seen to
    shine so clearly, And the drops of water
    in rain and the sea, And the sands that
    make up its bed, Or map the stars
    in the firmament, Could anyone
    fathom or imagine The great desire
    I have to see you.

    This is a good example of what will become forever a classic.
    and yet most recording studios would call the lyrics cliche and
    refuse to accept the pitch for the song itself.

     
  • Matthew F. Blowers III posted at 8:15 pm on Sun, Jan 12, 2014.

    ArtWhimsically Yours Studio Posts: 2

    Alas the days of poetry and music always dancing hand in hand are slowly fading. In the current, pop pulp music market. Rhyme is considered old school, conversational lyrics are encouraged, and any lyrics that have meaning or a message are thought to be lecturing or preaching.

    Inane tidbits of thought about a girl, a guy, a dance, a dress, a copulation, these are what sells. Influence is placed on the songs ability to abandon intellectual thought and just have fun, shake your body and just let loose.

    Though there is nothing wrong with that, the songs that hold meaning and long standing endurance are vanishing into the Indie market, where many are lost forever in dusty web filed MP3's.

    I enjoyed your article immensely, but the questions still hangs in the balance, What will be considered classic from the last decade of music produced?. There will be some that survive, but most will disappear as a flash in the peter pan world of today's top hits. Thanks for sharing.

     
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