Thursday, April 1, 2021

MARIA MIRAGLIA

 

POETRY AND MUSIC

 

“The loss of the tastes for poetry and music is a loss for happiness, and may possibly be injurious for the intellect, and more probably for the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”

-Charles Darwin

 

Poetry has very ancient origin, it dates back to prehistoric time with hunting poetry in Africa and panegyric or elegiac court poetry of the empire of Nile, Niger and Volta valleys. Some of the earliest written poetry in Africa is found among the Egyptian Pyramid Texts written during the 25th century BC. while the earliest poems in Eurasian continent evolves from folk songs or from a need to retell oral epic.  In ancient times, the word is the only tool that can be used to tell legends, important events and transmit ethical and cultural values. Since the writing is still unknown, the poet is forced to remember everything by heart. He activates his genius only after receiving inspiration from the Muses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosine, the goddess of memory. When the poet receives the divine inspiration, thanks to magical gifts, he is able to convey the message to men. Poetry therefore presents a sacred aspect for the whole archaic civilization. First of all, the poet is not in control of it, it is only the means by which the gods communicated with men. The ability to tell stories has been for several centuries the only tool capable of spreading and developing the cultural baggage of societies and passing on the philosophy of principles and values of entire peoples. In the archaic world, poetry played an active role in the intellectual development of mankind. Poetry like any other form of artistic creation, is one of the pillars of the humanities. By following the paths of emotion and imagination the poem transmits knowledge and human values. Steve Pinker, a Canadian cognitive scientist argues that literature has its ethical power “better still, it shapes the human being, body and soul.

 

But, if for us today poetry is identified with the word, once upon a time it was identified by the accompaniment of musical instruments such as the lyre of the Aedi in ancient Greece, the four-stringed lyre or the Druidic harp of the Celts, the viella of troubadour chant in the feudal Middle Ages, the lute, the flute, the theorbo and then the modern wind or string instruments. As Eugenio Montale said, in his speech given at the Swedish Academy in 1975, when awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, “poetry probably arose from the need to add a vocal sound to the rhythm of primitive music”. Only much later, following the invention of writing, words and music can be written and differentiate. Thus, written poetry makes its appearance. Even if the common relationship with music is still felt. Poetry today is that of songwriters accompanied by single musical instruments or by entire orchestras when poetry becomes song and spreads thanks to mass events such as concerts aided by means of diffusion and promotion such as radio, television and any other means of recording. and transmission. If we want to have a chronological reference point, as far as Western literature is concerned, we can say that in Greece the verses sung by the Aedi began to be written down with the introduction of alphabetic writing, around the eighth century

 

But poetry began to be self-sufficient with respect to music, with the spread of the printed book invented by Gutenberg around the middle of the fifteenth century. In this phase the reading becomes progressively silent, visual and a private fact and at the same time a mass phenomenon

Poetry and music are the arts that come closest to the sublime. There is a strong undeniable connection between them. Both evoke and suggest sensations and emotions through rhythmic sounds and harmonies capable of creating aesthetic suggestions and fantasies. Poems also have aspects of sound just like song lyrics and poetry is meant to be heard just as a song. A poem can be read quietly, but it has more power when read aloud to other people since they can then hear the sounds and feel the mood, feeling and tension it conveys. The same can be said for songs lyrics which also have a particular sound used to exhibit a specific mood or feeling. There is a natural flow that is evident in the words of a poem and similarly in the lyrics of a song. Often times there are repetitions in both songs and poems what gives them a flow and rhyme. Music without any words can also convey emotion and mood just like a poem does. Musical instruments can play together to create a rhythm and rhyme and feeling in a way akin to that of a poem.

 

In 2016 the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Bob Dylan, a songwriter. This did not arouse any surprise since music and poetry do not belong to two distant hemispheres, rather music and poetry interpenetrate and do nothing but grow up and often make each other better. Both arts are unique: Dante has shown us with his Comedy how poetry can "sound good" and so did Montale in Creacks the pulley of the well. A rarer form of music, unconventional but still music. The song has not replaced poetry because the will to write without making music or to make music or play without writing has remained intact. It stays only admantine the assertion of Alexander Pope that "Music resembles poetry, in each /Are nameless graces which no method teaches/ And which a must hand alone can reach."

MARIA MIRAGLIA

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