In Loving Repetition by Justin E. H. Smith

In music, poetry on July 24, 2015 at 05:50

From: In Loving Repetition by Justin E. H. Smith, berfrois,

To the extent that music involves repetition, whether of melodies or chords or words, it is all rooted in poetry. This is ancient, but still clear in certain traditions that survive into the era of recording, such as the Russian bard style of Vysotsky (the homonymy with Shakespeare’s moniker is not coincidental). Here, as in the music of Seikilos, there is a cycle of words, whose transcendent or non-mundane force is heightened by an accompanying string instrument, but not subordinated to that instrument. In general, if one wishes to find the pre-recording roots of popular music, one does well to look, not only to the history of music strictly speaking (melody and harmony in particular), but also to traditions of oral poetry and oral lore. Alan Lomax seems to have understood this very well in his field recordings: he realized he could not go in and ask only to hear the tunes of Appalachia or the Mississippi Delta, but had to listen to the folk tales as well.

We know that a number of the world’s most glorious works of epic poetry, including Homeric epic, began as traditions of oral recitation, presumably involving some degree of rhythmic articulation, and perhaps also inflections of the voice’s pitch and timber. In this respect, literature and music are really only different trajectories of the same deeper aesthetic activity: a repetition that reconfirms, or reestablishes, or perhaps recreates, the order of the world. To be invested in this repetition aesthetically is to experience it with love, which again, following Murray, is nothing other than religion itself.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: berfrois


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