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Words and Music

edited by John Williamson
Volume: 3
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Words and Music
    Book Description:

    Word and music studies is a relatively young discipline that has nonetheless generated a substantial amount of work. Recent studies in the field have embraced music in literature (word music, formal parallels to music in literature, verbal music), music and literarature (vocal music) and literature in music (programme music). Other positions have been defined in which song exists as an analysable category distinct from words and music and requiring its own grammar. Much of the literature has tended to focus on readings of the literary text, pushing theoretical and analytical concerns in music to one side, a trend that is as apparent among musicologists as among literary historians. The essays presented here from the third Liverpool Music Symposium seek accordingly to redress this situation. Contributors tackle the study of words and music from a number of standpoints, examining artists as diverse as Eminem, Patti Smith and Arnold Schoenberg.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-444-5
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)
    John Williamson

    Word and Music’ studies today have a new stature in the Humanities. They have a home (the International Association for Word and Music Studies), with a web site (, a new series of dedicated publications of which the first three volumes have already appeared, regular conferences, and, since 1989, a shiny new term, melopoetics, coined originally by Lawrence Kramer.¹ The organizers and the moving spirits reflect the birth of the idea in departments of Comparative Literature but musicology has come to contribute its full share in the interdisciplinary movement. As one of the founders noted, ‘interdisciplinary’ was the magical buzz...

  5. 1 Mimesis, Gesture, and Parody in Musical Word-setting
    (pp. 10-27)
    Derek B. Scott

    This chapter examines, compares, and contrasts three of the different ways in which words can be treated musically. I should remark at the outset that ‘gesture’ is the overarching term, since it covers anything that lends emphasis, intensity, or expression to a communicative act. Edward Cone explained that music might be considered a language of symbolic gestures, ‘of direct actions, of pauses, of startings and stoppings, of rises and falls, of tenseness and slackness, of accentuations’.¹ The word ‘gesture’ usually refers to a bodily movement that either communicates or reinforces a message. Yet, there is always the possibility of using...

  6. 2 Rhetoric and Music: The Influence of a Linguistic Art
    (pp. 28-72)
    Jasmin Cameron

    The ‘conversion’ of a linguistic system, such as rhetoric, to a musical one would appear to be a logical step in theory: after all, music, too, is considered to be a kind of language. Working on this assumption, what could be more natural to apply a system originating in one kind of language to another? However, it is only when the consequences of such an adaptation process are reviewed that it becomes evident how many points of comparison arise: while some of them bring out the similarities between words and music, others highlight the differences. One aim of this paper...

  7. 3 Eminem: Difficult Dialogics
    (pp. 73-102)
    David Clarke

    The outpourings of white rapper Eminem (Marshall Mathers III) have not met with universal acclaim. Women’s groups, gay activists, and US politicians have been loudest within the refrain of unnumbered individuals deploring the degeneracy displayed by his malign lines. My epigraphs, quotations fromThe Marshall Mathers LP(2000),¹ offer clear enough signs of what the trouble is: the usual intractable tropes of hardcore hip-hop: violence, misogyny, homophobia, and foul language. Such vernacular extremes might breach the decorum of an academic symposium, but, however sensationally, the incongruous juxtaposition performs precisely one of the principal points I plan to explore: the question...

  8. 4 Artistry, Expediency or Irrelevance? English Choral Translators and their Work
    (pp. 103-124)
    Judith Blezzard

    One result of the increase in choice and availability of vocal music to a widening cross-section of the nineteenth-century English-speaking public was the desire for English translations of vocal texts. It was hardly surprising, therefore, that publishers in England and elsewhere sought to capitalize on this, equipping vocal music composed with foreign-language texts (including Latin) with English singing texts or (less commonly) English prose or poetic paraphrases. The spate of activity in this field of publishing is remarkable, not only for its diversity, but for its ingenuity, resourcefulness, and sometimes even for its audacity in modifying, broadening, or subverting the...

  9. 5 Pyramids, Symbols, and Butterflies: ‘Nacht’ from Pierrot Lunaire
    (pp. 125-149)
    John Williamson

    A central issue in ‘Words and Music’ studies is the complex of ideas related to analysis of lieder that have been categorized by Kofi Agawu and amplified by Suzanne M. Lodato. These have mostly been discussed in relation to the nineteenth-century repertory, though clearly they have the capacity for extension, since Lodato’s attempts to explain and refine Agawu’s taxonomy makes comparatively little reference to specific lieder (unless in the context of methodologies) and deals largely with general issues. This chapter will consider a ‘vocal’ work that has a notional resemblance to a lied in proportion, that is situated within a...

  10. 6 Music and Text in Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw
    (pp. 150-160)
    Bhesham Sharma

    A Survivor from Warsaw(Op. 46) ranks among Schoenberg’s most dramatic and controversial works. Completed in 1946 and scored for narrator, male chorus, and orchestra, the composition is based on a narrative Schoenberg heard directly and indirectly from survivors of a Nazi concentration camp. Schoenberg turns the narrative and the final section, a chorus, into the primary focus of the composition. He supports the narrative and voices through lucid dodecaphonic textures in the orchestra. At times, dodecaphonic conventions seem to be abandoned as whole-tone and chromatic passages appear in the score. Underlying Schoenberg’s musical accompaniment, however, is not an abrogation...

  11. 7 Rethinking the Relationship Between Words and Music for the Twentieth Century: The Strange Case of Erik Satie
    (pp. 161-189)
    Robert Orledge

    Few composers have been as fascinated by the relationship between the spoken or unspoken word and music as the iconoclastic Erik Satie (1866–1925). His literary production was almost as important as his forward-looking compositions, and at least as extensive. While most of Satie’s contemporaries, from Rimbaud to Joyce, were jealous of music’s advantages over words and tried to recreate its emotive powers and even its forms in their poetry, Satie’s main fear was that that printed music could ‘never achieve the same “published” qualities as literature’.¹ His quest was to find new ways of linking words and music and...

  12. 8 ‘Breaking up is hard to do’: Issues of Coherence and Fragmentation in post-1950 Vocal Music
    (pp. 190-218)
    James Wishart

    Many writings by scholars and composers on the relationship between words and music are centred on issues of intelligibility or coherence. It would be relatively easy to become sidetracked into a long discussion of the diverse aspects which may increase or decrease the coherence of a text delivered in musical terms, whether spoken, sung, or involving hybrid modes. It would be tempting to consider questions of room acoustic, where clear understanding of text can easily be impeded while listening to music. Also pertinent is the role of clear diction in performance, not just where the lazy vocal performer might be...

  13. 9 Writing For Your Supper – Creative Work and the Contexts of Popular Songwriting
    (pp. 219-250)
    Mike Jones

    In 1988 I wrote a song called ‘Model Son’. This song appeared eventually on an album for RCA Records –Swimming against the Streamby Latin Quarter (a group of which I was a non-playing member) released in the spring of 1989. By that point it was my one hundred and forty-seventh song and would make my fortieth recording. Oddly, no one save myself heard my version of ‘Model Son’. Instead I did with it what I did with all the songs I wrote in the years I spent as a full-time songwriter: I completed it on paper as a lyric...

  14. Index
    (pp. 251-264)