Saturday, January 16, 2010

Music and Lyrics

I was thinking the other day about how the relationship between music and lyrics can be likened to the relationship between music and dance. Just as Cage and Cunningham held that dance and music could coexist independently of one another, so, too can music and lyrics. The separation of music and words is perhaps a bit more easy to swallow than the separation of music and dance, seeing as they're both sonic phenomena and certainly evolved independently of one another. So, this is no new and radical thought, but I got to thinking about how, as accompaniment to music, lyrics, like dance, seem to run on a spectrum with regards to their dependency on that music.

Some lyrics can stand alone and not seem to be missing anything at all. That is to say, with music they are lyrics, and without music, they become poetry or prose. Other lyrics, however, seem to be completely dependant upon musical accompaniment, sounding a bit absurd outside a musical context. These are likely the songs that one might try to sing to oneself, but find difficult because there's so much missing without the music present -or songs one sings anyway and no one else can decipher what it's actually supposed to sound like. Much like tap dance, there are lyrics that are sung with the music, outside the music, around the music, and in and out of the notes. And then, there are words that aren't sung so much for their content -unlike the aforementioned poetry- but for their own musical qualities.

It really is wonderful just how multifaceted words can be.

1 comment:

jerome langguth said...

Very interesting. Cage himself experimented some with this in Roaratorio, a composition "based on" James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Here is a link to a recording of Cage's composition: