Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Words and Music, Certainly

I have come to understand that the music that moves me is usually associated with language. That is to say, a composition consisting of musical notes and depending on that alone does not touch me as deeply as a well-phrased song. I am trying to understand why.


This meditation comes out of a concert I attended recently, and the comparison I make with different concerts I remember. I can listen to classical compositions and enjoy the sound patterns, perhaps even feel a vague emotional response to it. I can follow the intricacies of a jazz number and be astounded by the separate reality it may portray to the contemplating mind. But it is songs that I remember most vividly. Not necessarily the poetry of the song although that seems to be a strong component. It is the combination of words and music that touches me deepest


The concert by Big Rude Jake about ten days ago is a good illustration. I had seen him fronting a neo-swing type band about eight or so years ago but heard that he had refined his sound to more of a singer-songwriter style presentation. I enjoyed it even though I approached it somewhat skeptically. I tried to analyze what it was about his concert that impressed me and came up with these facets: he had the poetic sensibility of a Tom Waits, the musical ambiance of a Leon Redbone, and the ‘fun’ jazz styling of Big Rude Jake. I was moved and impressed.

But several days later I came across a phrase that, although here it was in a totally different context, reminded me of a song that had moved me to tears many years ago. I pawed through my extensive record collection and found the original recording. When I played it again for myself, the tears flowed again. And again, every time I played it or sang it to myself. This is one of a small number of songs that affect me that way. With each one, I can remember where I first heard it, with whom, under what circumstances. I cannot say the same about any other piece of music that has no vocal component.

So it seems my true appreciation of music depends on language. I don’t know if this is unusual, whether it is a part of my being a poet, a wordwright or something like that. The realization that such is my nature does help me understand myself.

It helps explain my affinity to old blues, story songs, and music surrounding literate imagery.




1 comment:

annaken said...

Very interesting!