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Music is Poetry and Cannot Be Otherwise

"The beautiful people, the beautiful people It's all relative to the size of your steeple" (Marilyn Manson, The Beautiful People)

I am going to inaugurate my 20th blog post on the Lab website with a mix and match of what I am currently reading for a paper I want to publish with my friend Morgan and personal experience. This semester I have been assigned by my home department to an introductory-level course on Language and Literature taught by Barbara. As I already know since I have started TAing for her, a conspicuous percentage of the final grade depends on the student's commitment to sharing their thoughts on the course or some of its topics in the form of short blog posts. As such, I have been exposed to the mode of thought of the new generations through their weekly elucubrations.

But having said that, I will move to the heart of the matter, this is the student's response to my recent guest lecture on prosody. That class surprisingly turned out to be quite appreciated by my audience in both the sections of the same course it has been iterated. There, I had the chance to teach a crash course on basic stylistics and prosodical notions in the form of a pretty simple toolkit, which –in my intentions– they should be able to reuse along their academic career –if they ever decide to continue along the road of literature. However, a few days after having delivered the lecture, while revising the blog posts, my attention was caught by the number of people blogging on the topic of poetry. Like anything else, opinions were polarised: some of the students were actually quite positive since they did like poetry already, whereas others showed interesting criticism. The most bizarre, in my view, were the ones completely disliking poetry, despite having cautiously kind of enjoyed my effort to take away from them the fear of approaching poetry analytically.

I write that in all earnest not without the hint of a smile, because they did not realise a simple basic thing: the music coming out from their headphones is some sort of variation of what we scholars would define precisely as poetry. One of the three pieces that I recited at the very beginning of that class was an excerpt from a song taken from Marilyn Manson's 1996 album entitled Antichrist Superstar. But maybe it is my fault –I should have stressed this thing more without taking it for granted. All the references about the musicality of the verse and the Greek etymology of lyrics, coming from the instrument did not suffice. And yet I hope that they will understand at some point that the reason why we still enjoy listening to music, as people in the past enjoyed reading poems, is because, in a way or the other, literary works are entertaining. As stated by Baba Brinkman –the homo duplex, both rapper and Chaucerian scholar– in many contributions what reconnects Hip-hop artists and poets is basically the use –although inconstant– of the same language structures (Brinkman 2000; Brinkman 2006; Brinkman 2010). The same rhymes, the same metaphors, in sum, the same rhetorical and prosodical devices, which should be enough to understand that, to paraphrase the definition of logical impossibilities: music is poetry and cannot be otherwise.



Reference List


Brinkman, Baba. 2000. Competitive Poetics An Examination of Speaker/Audience Relationships in Hiphop Lyrics and The Canterbury Tales. BA Hon. Thesis. Simon Fraser University.


––––. 2006. The Rap Canterbury Tales. Vancouver, BC.: Talonbooks.


––––. “Wrestling for the Ram: Competition and Feedback in 'Sir Thopas' and 'The Canterbury Tales'” LATCH 3 (2010): 107-33.


Marilyn Manson. 1996. "The Beautiful People". In Antichrist Superstar. New Orleans: Nothing.

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