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  Words and music  Jim Tribble at 11:43 on 03 May 2008

I learn very slowly and a recent revelation happened while talking to my brother about composing and the world.

Nearly 99% of music that is on the radio, CD's, websites etc is concerned with words.

My brothers and I were brought up in a house that only had traditional classical music as the general background to the day. So our sound world and the music that we love and identify with is normally instrumental.

It occurred to me that this is unusual. Nearly all of popular music, is songs. The music that creates the most passion even in the classical world is songs, and I don't relate to them. What I mean is Opera, Lieder etc. I can appreciate the music and the craft that has gone into it but don't feel that passion that other people obviously do.

I think that this is the background to the "do you like a good tune" forum that I started.

I normally notice the music and the tune and relate to that first before I notice the song.

Am I really that odd?
(by the way this does not mean that I am emotionally stunted, I do relate to other people (wife, kids etc) in a normal way)

How do you lot feel?


  Re: Words and music  Dmitry Badiarov at 00:28 on 04 May 2008

When I lived in St.Petersburg I studied composition for three years. At that time I did not know anything about rhetoric but I felt the words play very important part in music. Somehow it occurred to me as revelation...
If I got you right, you might be interested in Musica Poetica (Barthel), The Weapons of Rhetiric (Tarling), The End of Early Music (Haynes), Music as Speech (Harnoncourt)... each book gives extensive list of primary sourses and bibliography. Then of course you know Prima prattica and Seconda prattica and the famous controversy between Monteverdi and ... and... I lost the name in my memory...
Even if there are no words, connection between music and words or figures of speech can be very prominent. Hope this makes your life harder

  Re: Words and music  Misuc at 09:27 on 04 May 2008


  Re: Words and music  Jim Tribble at 10:57 on 04 May 2008

So I'm stuck in the past?

  Re: Words and music  scott_good at 13:09 on 04 May 2008


I think that this is a situation which is both new and old. Not long ago, instrumental music played a far greater role in the musical landscape than it does now. The main reason was the invention of the jazz language in which instrumental music played(plays) a key component. Also, in the previous 150 years or so, orchestral music was a very important part of what kinds of music was listened to.

I think that the history of the relation between words and music is somewhat arbitrary. In the first practice, the emphasis on the words is indeed important (essential) to understanding the music, but, the reason for the words was to serve the needs of the mass. The music alone would not do this as these words need to be said for the order of the mass. This for me is an imposed condition for the composer, and not essential to music making. It is moot to speculate another possible scenario, but still, I cannot see a direct co-relation between said music and said words.

Now, I believe, music is less important. Take the hip hop phenomena - what really does this have to do with music? It's social commentary set to a beat - take out the words and what is left? I am starting to wonder if indeed it is not that classical music that is in trouble, but the actual art of music that is. Words are needed to relate the music because the music alone cannot satisfy - it's just not enough for a world that needs maximum impact.

That being said, I do like the combination of words and music, and enjoy as a composer being subservient to a text - to analyze words and put them into a musical setting. A strong lyric can be very engaging, of course.

As well, there are pockets where instrumental music still thrives - raves/DJ and the growing improvised music scene and yes, the classical orchestra or chamber ensemble of course to site a few examples.

  Re: Words and music  Dmitry Badiarov at 16:33 on 04 May 2008

yes! Artusi, of course!
No one is stack in the past, I hope, but everyone is studying the masters for the sake of the future (or at least the artsists do - not in order to produce copies of the masters) .
(I have just came back from an unbelievable concert... no words to describe... )