Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Monday, June 07, 2010

Prose as music: pro and con

Prose can be music if arranged just so in rhythm and tone. I've sat transfixed, bound by the rise and fall of cadence. I've been touched in the music spot by the sound of a voice projecting pictures and people into my mind. I've melted into the author.

Prose cannot cross language barriers. It cannot inspire bodies to move together in sexual pantomime or better. It is a more confined art -- less in scope, a degree removed -- that must reach the spirit through thought and memory. It cannot mainline joy.


Anonymous Asylum Dolly said...

Dancing is totally a sexual pantomime!
And this post is speaking to me.Your descriptions of music there are spot on.To me it's no coincidence that the words "music" and "magic" are so similar.There is music for every occasion and mood under the sun. It is a universal language.There are many songs i love , but which have the crappiest lyrics ever, and a few songs i love that are sung in languages i don't even understand, but the emotion conveyed through the sound is enough meaning for me.
But when it comes to lyrics in music i rarely take much notice of their meaning, because (for me anyway) the way it SOUNDS is what gets me in. But i guess that's what you're getting at here! It's an interesting point.
Writing might be a more confined art (like painting or sculpting also), but still capable of inspiring a variety of emotions. Hardy's "Tess of the D'urbervilles" made me cry like a little bitch!Then on the other end of the spectrum,i get a good giggle out of Spike Milligans "Puckoon", and what fun would my dear Flight Of The Conchords be without their silly wordies? Their lyrics inspire a bit of pee to come out.TMI.Yeah, the music adds to the comedy- but it's the hilarious words that really make it.
But I'm rambling. AGAIN. I'm not as good with words as you, but hopefully i'm making some sense. Sorry for the essay!

11:54 PM  
Blogger JMH said...

I love the essay -- the more words the better, although I have no idea which points to address.

My favorite songs tend to be in Spanish, a language that I only partially understand, and that's why they're my favorite songs. It's good feeling and mystery. For instance, buy Joaquin Sabina's "Whisky Sin Soda" on iTunes if you have iTunes. Listen to it. Let me know what you think.

Music can have such an instantaneous effect, such an influx of pleasure, that I couldn't help but wonder if prose could do something similar, if I couldn't do something similar with prose. There are arguments for and against.

Incidentally, don't worry about TMI when commenting here. My imagination is quite graphic on a day-to-day basis. It tries to shock, but I've developed a tolerance, at least for excretions.

12:29 AM  
Blogger sybil law said...

Mark Helprin - damn near anything that man writes makes my brain sing, gives me insane, intricate dreams and leaves me wanting more. Kind of like Wagner.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Asylum Dolly said...

Yeah,true- music is an instant hit, while writing takes longer to kick in.
Sybil's comment has inspired me to read some Mark Helprin!

I listened to that song on youtube. Well, y'know watched. The first thing it reminded me of was this song from the 80's by an aussie band called Icehouse. hehe. If you ever hear any of their stuff, you will laugh, and think i'm a complete flip (you'd be right too). But the particular song it reminded me is called "great southern land" (it's all about Australia..jeeezus.*eyeroll then facepalm*), and i'm guessing Mr. Sabina is not singing about Aus..but for some reason it just sounded like it a bit!

I actually started to learn spanish a few years back. I've forgotten most of it, but yeah, i loved it. I had a few spanish speaking friends in my student days, and a south american boyfriend, and hanging out with them all let me pick up the language pretty quick! Since they all returned to their overseas homes again i've lost touch with most of those people sadly, and with it my opportunities to put the spanish words into practice. sadface. I still remember all the words to Manu Chao's "Me Gustas Tu" though! hahaha. It's probably like a kindergarten song for a proper spanish speaker (apart from the marijuhana reference i guess), but it still makes me feel cool.

9:47 PM  
Blogger JMH said...

sybil - I'll check out some of his stuff.

Bon - I'm not sure why I mentioned the Sabina song (probably because it was the first thing that popped into my mind) -- it is kind of 80's cheesy, but who doesn't like 80's cheesy? And what's a complete flip?

I love Manu Chao.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous Asylum Dolly said...

We all like a bit of 80's cheese.

Flip= nutter/loonytune/basketcase etc.

Manu Chao is cool! Good summer music.

9:59 PM  
Blogger jorg wobblington lopez said...

I tried mainlining joy with prose once, but was confused about the process (found on a magazine called "Buns"). I had trouble liquifying the pages of my favorite story, and that's probably how the sickness started. You're advice was too late.

9:36 PM  
Blogger JMH said...

I'm sorry it was too late for you, but maybe someone somewhere thinking of liquifying pages will learn from your experience and avoid the sickness.

12:33 AM  

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