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How to Bring Poetry & Music Together
How can we involve Violin, Viola or Cello with Poetry?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (6 votes) 
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ELCBK
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July 6, 2022 - 8:47 pm
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*I moved this to Music Theory once I realized what I was getting myself into. (lol)

I must be watching too much Cowboy stuff lately - this clip of 2 poems by Waddie Mitchell and Baxter Black made me wonder if they could be put to music played on the fiddle!

🤔 been thinking... an awful lot of 'Cowboy' songs/ballads sound like poetry - can all poems be set to music? 

Seems I have several choices, but 1st - what's the difference between Lyrics & Poetry?  MUCH more info in the video description/commentary!

1. Music can accompany the reading of Poetry. 

2. Poetry can be the inspiration for Music - without being the lyrics.

"Poetry and the Violin" (part 1) - The Jamanis Project shows both.  At 00:29:12 - the poem "Bebop" was inspired by some music, then the poem turned around and inspired yet other music (very cool)!

3. Music can be the inspiration for Poetry. 

A Décima poem (translated), was inspired by a Son Jarocho concert (folk music of Veracruz, Mexico) that took place in San Francisco (2014).  Décima is always 10 lines, 8 syllables (syllabic meter) and has a specific rhyming order.  Son Jarocha is the perfect type of music for it.

 Poetry Inspired By Music - Yerba Buena Gardens Festival

4. Poetry can become part of Music as Song Lyrics. 

During my search here I've been reminded of; how musical poetry is, how poetry and Jazz go hand-in-hand, how important poetry in other cultures is to their music, and even found sources of poetry that have inspired the music of Harry Styles which, btw, would be great played on Violin/Viola! 

...don't think I want to attempt to set either of those Cowboy poems to music. (lol)

- Emily

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SharonC
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July 6, 2022 - 9:37 pm
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Many years ago, I earned a B.A. in English (believe it or not), so I guess I feel compelled to point out the differences between poetry & prose.

https://www.diffen.com/differe.....y_vs_Prose

It makes sense that music & poetry go together—both are part of storytelling history. They have structure & patterns in which sound as well as meaning is important. 

Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words.

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ELCBK
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July 6, 2022 - 10:19 pm
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So, I ran across enough info to realize just about any poem can be used either along with or in some kind of music. 

I probably need to write out "The Vegetarian's Nightmare" before I can tell if it's an 'elegy', potential 'ballad' material, or something else - but I don't think I really want to set something to music that I didn't write.

April Keez gives many GREAT suggestions and tips on "Turning Poems Into Songs", plus I saw she has many other helpful videos on her site - all song writing related! 

Everything we've discussed in all the Music Theory threads will be helpful, but I'm still not sure if I would want to start with a poem or start with a melody or chord progression... poem or story. 🤔 

Maybe I should've looked more at Song Structures and Forms of Poetry to start with! 

55 Types of Poetry Forms

See attachment for a great little pdf - "Song Structure Cheat Sheet".

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ELCBK
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July 6, 2022 - 11:01 pm
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@SharonC -

Thank you! 

I enjoyed my College English & Creative Writing, but doesn't mean I remember much - painfully evident, so I appreciate every bit of help while I take a peek into this topic. 

Are you thinking "The Vegetarian's Nightmare" isn't poetry? 

Or, are you relating to the changes a poem can go through to make it work as lyrics?

...my brain just shut down. dazed

 

3 Ways to Turn Poetry Into Lyrics - wikiHow

1. Meter & Structure

2. Language & Imagery 

3. Melody

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AndrewH
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In the classical world, there's a surprising amount of purely instrumental music associated with poetry. Here are a few examples.

 

Most of us are probably familiar with Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" violin concertos, which were published with four accompanying sonnets, one for each season. It's not clear whether the concertos or the sonnets were written first, but it's believed that Vivaldi wrote the sonnets himself, because each sonnet is broken into three sections that correspond precisely to the imagery in each movement.

 

Robert Schumann's 1st Symphony ("Spring") was inspired by Adolf Böttger's poem "Frühlingsgedicht" (Spring Poem). It contains what might be the closest thing to a poetry quotation in instrumental music. The rhythm in the beginning of the symphony precisely matches the last two lines of the poem: "O wende, wende deinen Lauf / Im Thale blüht der Frühling auf!" ("O, turn, O turn and change your course / In the valley, Spring blooms forth!"). From there, Schumann develops the musical theme that came from the poetry.

 

Hector Berlioz's "Harold in Italy" for viola and orchestra was loosely inspired by Lord Byron's poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," but contains no actual references to Byron's poem; the titles of the movements refer to things entirely outside the poem. Instead, as Berlioz later wrote, he "wanted to make the viola a kind of melancholy dreamer in the manner of Byron's Childe-Harold."

 

Ralph Vaughan Williams's "The Lark Ascending" for violin and orchestra was inspired by a George Meredith poem of the same name. At the top of the manuscript score, Vaughan Williams wrote out three short excerpts from Meredith's poem:

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.

For singing till his heaven fills,
'Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
to lift us with him as he goes.

Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.

 

The score of Helena Munktell's tone poem "Walpurgisfire," which I played as a virtual orchestra project with Untitled Virtual Ensemble last year, is accompanied by a poem that was probably written by the composer. At the beginning of our recording on YouTube, you can see an English translation of that poem.

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ELCBK
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July 7, 2022 - 4:27 am
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@AndrewH - 

Thank you! 

Those are wonderful examples! 

I was aware of Vivaldi's sonnets, how he tried to present the sounds of Nature, festivities, etc... but I didn't remember specifics about the other composers. 

Pretty sure at least one of the videos I shared talked about using a poem's rhythm & phrasing similar to Robert Schumann. 

I think your examples bring to light how well Classical music pieces convey emotion and imagery - which is why I enjoy a little analysis to point out which music elements prove the most effective. 

U.C. Berkeley did an interesting study a few years back where they "identified and mapped the 13 subjective experiences that different kinds of music can evoke in people"

The categories were: amusing, annoying, anxious or tense, beautiful, calm or relaxing or serene, dreamy, energizing, erotic or desirous, indignant or defiant, joyful or cheerful, sad or depressing, scary or fearful, and triumphant or heroic.

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SharonC
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@AndrewH Wonderful examples—I really like “The Lark Ascending” 

@ELCBK  I do think "The Vegetarian's Nightmare" is poetry. I guess I was just trying to say that poetry is just a language with more structure.  I think that most any poem could be set to music of some sort.

Here’s “The Lady of Shalott”  (Alfred Lord Tennyson) done by Loreena McKinnett with only minor changes to the poem set to music. 

Lyrics:

https://web.ics.purdue.edu/~fe.....eena3.html

Characterize people by their actions and you will never be fooled by their words.

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Gordon Shumway
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July 7, 2022 - 9:08 am
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Can poetry be set to music?

Well, yes, that's what a song is.

However, I think I've seen it said that a song is where so-so poetry is put together with so-so music, and together they form something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Probably by putting the best poetry to music you spoil it, as the poetry can only be dragged down, it can't be lifted up.

It's related to the question of whether a film can ever be better than the book. Some say "NO!", but that's because they only consider the biggest books, such as Joyce's Ulysses or War and Peace, which can only be dragged down. They ignore the thousands of mediocre books that are snapped up cheaply by Hollywood's reading departments (with no promise that there will be a film of the book, therefore no question yet of royalties) - Hitchcock's Vertigo came from a book by Boileau-Narcéjac (Les Sueurs Froides - I've read it) who were a collaborative pair who churned out shedloads of pot-boilers.

My problem with songs is I never listen to the lyrics.

Andrew

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ELCBK
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July 7, 2022 - 1:36 pm
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@SharonC -

Wow - that was beautiful! 

Thank you!

 

@Gordon Shumway -

I don't think all songs are poetry set to music - not all song lyrics can stand on their own without the music. 

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Gordon Shumway
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ELCBK said
I don't think all songs are poetry set to music - not all song lyrics can stand on their own without the music.

I didn't say it was good poetry!

Andrew

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ELCBK
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July 7, 2022 - 2:58 pm
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Some Cultures have strict rules for musical poetry that is sung.   The Greeks have Melic Poetry music, India has Bhakti poetical hymns, Mexico & South America have Décimas.  Persian Rumi poetry seems to be very big in Middle Eastern music, especially Afganistan & Iran.  Russian Bard poetry is sung with simple accompaniment. 

"Jorge Drexler: Poetry, Music and Identity" (with English subtitles) - TED.

 

Thought maybe creating a ballad or story put to music for my Grandkids would be great - maybe even get them to help me.  Then I ran across an article about how Mary Amato (children's author & songwriting coach) worked with a group of 1st Graders to come up with Math & Science songs!  She laid out a fairly simple process & shows the results.  Songwriting With Kids

 

#GISH from GISH

 

The humor of "The Vegetarian's Nightmare" is definitely inspiring, but I think it's hard to overcome an urge to sound like Ray Stevens or Randy Brooks - when putting a poem like this to music. 

- Emily

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ELCBK
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...love this video - I'd forgot about "Cats" (the musical) being T.S. Eliot poetry!  

"Music as Poetry" - a nice comparison!

 

https://s3.amazonaws.com/pix.iemoji.com/images/emoji/apple/ios-11/256/woman-facepalming-medium-light-skin-tone.pngI don't know how someone can make so many clichés sound so good - Lana Del Rey (Elizabeth Woolridge Grant) is a better songwriter than poet, but there's something about her sultry music that makes me want to groove with it.  

"Blue Jeans" 

...yes, I played this on Edgar!

 

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/c9/94/ce/c994ce1d51e8c4606fb8a726f7c998f3--music-love-music-music.jpg

I made my song a coat, covered with embroideries, out of old mythologies... Yeats.

- Emily

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ELCBK
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July 17, 2022 - 11:23 am
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Thought I'd offer up some basic play-along sheet music for "Blue Jeans" by Lana Del Rey (Jaw JX), even though what I'm hearing in her voice (& what I've been playing) is a little more interesting on VIOLA.  

 

 

I'm starting to be able to notice more distinguishable pitch variation in the human singing voice - which adds a richness to the music... like ornaments that aren't notated. 

So, bottom line - I would notate this differently for 5-string violin, or viola.  Let's face it, there's a lot of popular sheet music that plays pretty dry, especially with notorious runs of identical notes (like the above example)!  It's not really sung like that.

I think some characteristics of the genre(s) can be helpful - but, popular music sub-genres are ridiculously challenging for me! 

In Wikipedia, different sources have described this tune as; "gangsta spaghetti western", a "trip hop ballad", "sadcore", and a "downtempo ballad with hip hop influences".  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/....._Rey_song)

There's an article at 'Roll The Record' that describes Lana Del Rey's general genre: 

The short answer is indie-pop.

If you want to elaborate a little bit more, you could say indie-pop with rock influences. Other genres that describe her are art pop, dream pop, baroque pop [alternative pop with classical influences], psychedelic rock, trip-hop, and even shoegaze. [blues-rock & trap influence, too] 

Lana Del Rey called the genre “Hollywood Sadcore” herself in an interview in 2012. This has been some time ago though. 

Anyway, what most fans agree on is that every album is a different genre.   https://rolltherecord.com/blog/what-music-genre-is-lana-del-rey/

 

...anyway, I reluctantly realize it's getting to the point where I should start using musescore to transcribe what I hear, instead of relying on my memory or a just recording.  Plus, it might just help finalize many things that linger around in my head.

I'm still stalling 😖 avoiding this, because it's one more rabbit hole that takes time away from all the other things I'm doing.  I certainly have more than enough to keep me busy; with Grandkids, practice music, learning more about music in general & different genres, trying bows/bowing/vibrato/shifting without a shoulder rest, etc... etc... etc...

https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-GcNo6Teifdw/U3NdUTN7BnI/AAAAAAAAIVQ/P4Yy0pQckAI/s1600/EpigeneticBullshit.jpgImage Enlarger

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/d7/d4/29/d7d429894225f32b0d693827225a0cdc.gif

 

- Emily 

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AndrewH
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July 18, 2022 - 7:04 pm
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ELCBK said
Some Cultures have strict rules for musical poetry that is sung.   The Greeks have Melic Poetry music, India has Bhakti poetical hymns, Mexico & South America have Décimas.  Persian Rumi poetry seems to be very big in Middle Eastern music, especially Afganistan & Iran.  Russian Bard poetry is sung with simple accompaniment. 

  

 

This reminds me of another classical connection. Wales has the penillion tradition of musical poetry and oratory. The mid-20th-century Welsh composer Grace Williams incorporated elements of it into several of her works, using themes that followed the melodic and harmonic rules of penillion singing, and incorporating typical penillion rhythms.

Her best known work is an orchestral work titled Penillion.

 

Another example of penillion-influenced music by Grace Williams is the first movement of her violin concerto.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

That is SO COOL - Thank You! 

The Grace Williams music is really wonderful, I could listen over & over! 

A while back I did some checking on the Welsh music in South America, so I knew the Welsh were big on poetry and singing, but was a little disappointed they favored the harp over fiddle.  Anyway, here's more info on the Penillion tradition (Cerdd Dant in Welsh) also known as "string music".  Cerdd Dant

You've reminded me I read about Welsh Carols being complex poetry - maybe I can find a little more about this.

Did you see the link I found for the whole "Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards" book (post 31)?  Welsh Folk Tunes Thread

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