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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Passageway

We think of music and poetry as contiguous spaces. They aren't the same thing, but there is a passageway between them. So the number of poems that can be set to music (that I can imagine setting) is a rather small percentage of poems I like in other ways. And if I write a tune first, I find it extremely difficult to come up with a satisfactory lyric, so the passageway is narrow in both directions.

Imagine it were different? I suppose if I was working in a poetic genre already that was tin pan alley or madrigal, then the tunes would come easily.


Vance Maverick said...

Yes, not many poems, especially in the dry Modernism we favor, are suitable for music. I'm finding ways around it, including looking more closely at poets whose language might have put me off (Duncan!) -- the imposition of the musical rhythm on the inherent prosody can become expressive, a source of interest.

The hymnals of my childhood used a simple metrical notation so you could see at once if a text would fit a tune -- by a crude standard justified only if the prosodic standard is Watts or Wesley. In my music classes at university, the discussion of this was quite thin. But some composers are certainly sensitive to the problem, so I expect there are places or teachers that do treat of it more subtly.

Jonathan said...

Setting ballads or other texts in short, symmetrical lines can't be that hard, I guess. Ballad and hymn stanze are meant for music.

Jonathan said...

Have you written for SATB before?

Vance Maverick said...

Yes, a few things, including recently. But it's been a while (15 years?) since I had anything performed in that vein.