Words and music

This week I’m underlining the link between music and the written word, mainly by the shameless use of other peoples’ words to prove my point.

Music and words have in common that they are both made of small separate parts that can be placed together in a variety of ways to produce a greater whole, one that reveals meaning and emotion to the listener or reader.

But it’s not only poetry that has a rhythm or musical, melodic features. Prose whether  fiction or non-fiction makes use of rhythm and even tempo to draw in the reader, whether it be repeated use of phrases or words to prove a point in a speech or a polemic article or essay, or whether it is a deliberate use of stylistic elements to lull the reader into a certain mood or to create tension and dramatic emphasis.

But don’t take my word for it, let’s hear from some notable people much better equipped to comment than me.

Music expresses that which cannot be put into words, and that which cannot remain silent. Victor Hugo

Okay, true he has just unproved my point there but bear with me. He created a link between words and music and the emotional power each of them seek to demonstrate.

And those who were seen dancing were thought insane by those who could not hear the music. Friedrich Nietzsche

We all dance to our own (unheard) music, at least, I hope we do, inside if not actual dancing. But I believe it’s true that as a reader it’s hard to completely capture the author’s vision, and as an author, it’s hard to put onto the page in concrete terms something you’ve only glimpsed in a dream. Not everyone will hear your music.

Most people die with their music still locked up inside them. Benjamin Disraeli

Don’t be one of these people! I think creative expression of all kinds can only enhance and beautify an otherwise difficult life. Reading—and listening to music—promotes good mental health, stimulates creativity, positivity, intelligence, compassion, socialisation and arguably conversation. So it’s a good thing to surround yourself with artistic endeavours and to enjoy them.

Here are a few more, in case you still need convincing. Read books, listen to music and prosper, as Mr Spock probably would have said if a writer had given him those lines.

It is always fatal to have music or poetry interrupted. George Eliot: Middlemarch

Poetry, plays, novels, music, they are the cry of the human spirit trying to understand itself and make sense of our world. Laura Malone Elliott: Annie Between the States

A fine work of art – music, dance, painting, story – has the power to silence the chatter in the mind and lift us to another place. Robert McKee: Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

If you were music, I would listen to you ceaselessly, and my low spirits would brighten up. Anna Akhmatova: The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova

Poetry is prose bewitched, a music made of visual thoughts, the sound of an idea. Mina Loy: The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy

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