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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Where's the Music?

 Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
        Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
    While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
        And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
    Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
        Among the river sallows, borne aloft
            Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
    And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
        Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
        The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
           And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

(The last stanza of Keats's "To Autumn." when he was dying of TB.)

When I read a poem, I wonder..."where is the music to this?" For me, unless a poem has a tune and is sung, it's not complete. When I hear poets read their poems, or rappers rap their lines, I think, "that person really wants to express themselves and they haven't learned to sing yet."

 I love it when poetry is lyrical or when poetry is an expression of meaning that has additional images or experiences in context with it. But by itself, usually poetry just doesn't do much for me. Part of the reason I don't really get into poetry is probably because there's no music attached, or I'm not connecting with the emotional content that's being expressed.

Words and grammar structure meaning - and poetry is where words become free of their structure. Poetry is how you can rub words together and they can become something original that hasn't been meant before. But unless you're skillful, the reader won't know what you're really saying and will read things into what you wrote that you didn't mean. Understanding is constructed by the person who is experiencing it. Their assumptions and perceptions trump your intent as an artist.

Sometimes poetic words will be so delicious on the page that I can actually imagine them complete without a tune attached. But usually that is when I can imagine images that go with the words instead of a tune, as I can do with this stanza from Keats. The poetry that goes beyond this "lack"of no music will evokes its own images that completely affect me. If a poem doesn't "do it for me," then usually it just doesn't contain enough of what it's hinting at. It's not "juicy enough." Hints are OK, I guess, for those people who like them, but I'm after experiences, or the hints of experiences that I have yet to embody.

Oddly enough, this is also the reason I listen to mostly instrumental music. It's also the reason I carefully select the films and video content to which I expose myself. If I listen to music with lyrics without selecting the content of it, (the radio, for instance) I am often so disappointed with how much drivel is out there. It's that I'm so affected by any art that I must be deliberate. When there is a song with words worth listening to, I never get tired of hearing it and may even take the time to learn to play and sing it. But frankly, most of what my culture imagines is valuable to say in a song or violent movies are ...not what I want to program into my psyche by repeating it. We humans seem to be preoccupied with the sounds of our own self-indulgences - we're verbal and like to blab - even when we don't have anything to say.

Being an artist, how can you tell if what you have to say is going to be considered notable by others unless you say it? Any expression seems to find it's audience. It's always interesting how "great" works of art continue to grow in meaning as the culture changes. People continue to find new meanings in "timeless" artistic vision. What is most personal becomes the most universal, as it is artfully expressed.

What do you think?