Monday, March 12, 2018

The Shuffle

More groundwork for the musicality of style.

It comes as no surprise that the language that built its lyrical poetry on the da dum heartbeat rhythm of the iamb would popularize the same rhythm in the swings and shuffles of blues and jazz.

Listen to the bass in the video below for the same heartbeat rhythm in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18:
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
It takes a little work, but you can sing the sonnet at tempo to the accompaniment of Freddie King and have it retain the life of spoken language without sounding like a robot--or an elementary school language arts teacher. The challenge is to keep the recitation from sounding rote.


  1. Nathan
    It's not common for English language singers to musicalize poetry whereas it's very common in the Romance languages. Could it be due to rhe iamb?
    To suggestva reference Salvador Oliba one Sheakespere's translators in Catalan has a book called the metrica del catala. Where he explains Catalan metrics. I've read extracts and i wish i could find the book as it would help me write better catalan :)

    1. I wouldn't say so. Poetry and rap, for instance, intersect at places, and what few poets remain often look to the blues for inspiration. The catch is that poetry is no longer a living part of American life any more, except for bad jokes and intentional doggerel.

  2. Nathan.

    Alright i was a tad strident :) but could you tell me of any songs that are poems put into musical form?
    Because that's where i'd appreciate some correctives to my ignorance


    1. Perhaps the closest modern example I can think is Xanadu by Rush. While inspired by than a recitation of Kubla Khan by Coolridge, it's the closest modern example that I can think of at the moment.

      (I'm assuming you aren't talking about American praise choruses which used to be Scripture set to music before they turned into Jesus-is-my-boyfriend nonsense.)

    2. Nathan
      Precisely what i was looking for. Actual English language poems that have been musicalized.
      I wonder if the Germans do it because the Romance languages do this to the point it's both a cliche and perfectly normal. If I remember right the troubadors sang their poems. Provençal and Occità certainly lead themselves to musicalizing poems.