I have a draft piece written somewhere on a genre of writing I like to term prose-poetry. It’s not the same as ‘poetic prose’ or ‘prose poetry’ (as such); it’s, I think, new and different, a mode which specifically combines the two. Specifically.
In the writing of it, I realised that I had last managed to define poetry, in opposition to prose, and without relying on literary techniques.
Poetry acts upon the emotions; it appeals to the emotions and evokes a response, whatever that may be.
Prose, conversely, acts upon logic; it appeals to the reason of the reader/audience.
Prose using emotions occasionally but only as a means to acting upon logic: In poetry, acting upon the emotions is the end in itself.
So, we come to music (I will eventually post that draft on prose-poetry).
Music has lyrics, which my family don’t listen to, but I do. I adore lyrics: the meaning behind them; the way they can work against and with the music and musicality of a song.
I used to see songs as poetry put to music. This is not the case.
Music and word are formed together in songs. But this is not the reason that I was wrong.
I have come to the realisation that not all songs are poetry. Not all music is made to appeal to the emotions.
Songs are perhaps more subjective in response than even written texts purely because you can entirely ignore the lyrics (whether they appeal to emotion or reason) and thereby only ‘feel’ the music.
I was listening to Yesterday by The Beatles on my way back home today. I’ve always had issues with this song, I love it, I dislike it, I don’t understand it. The narrative is pretty clear lyrically, the music sounds like a dirge/elegy, but music and lyrics don’t entirely match up.
I’m a firm believer in the music of a song being able to tell a different story to the lyrics, I think it’s a very important part of songs. But putting it in terms of prose and poetry today, I realised something; the lyrics of Yesterday appeal to my intellect, my reason, asking for sympathy maybe but still. I’m still struggling on how to put how something appeals to reason rather than intellect into words, without going for the blindly obvious- it asks you to think, it asks you to reason out the situation and come to a conclusion.
Seven Nation Army comes on next, I listen as always, my concentration fading in and out of the lyrics. I decided this song appeals to the emotion. Partly because the lyrics are easy to fade in and out of; the music and lyrics together are appealing to your emotion; it doesn’t matter which you are listening to or if you’re listening to them separately or together. There’s still a narrative thread guiding you through but some construction of lyrics play more to emotions than logic; “And I’m bleeding and i’m bleeding and I’m bleeding/right before the lord.”
Slight tangent, we went to a ghost tour on Saturday, a friend commented that the language our guide was using was very poetical. I replied that it was because he was a appealing to our emotion, not our logic; to apply reason to a ghost tour would destroy the whole purpose, the mood, the atmosphere, our want to be scared for an hour to release some tension.
American Pie is a song about emotion and events that appeals to logic and reason in all but the chorus, a heightened moment of emotion that appeals to your emotion to trick you into sharing his disappointment, sadness and need for a kind of renewal or redemption for music-kind. So much of the verses rely, however, on logical responses, inviting you to figure out the meaning of the obscure references in order to understand why you are being appealed to. Maybe it’s just me, but that song is heavily biased to reason-appeal and not emotion.
As are Amanda Palmer‘s songs, though emotional they appeal to logic for sympathy, not emotion. To understanding, not heart-felt pity.
And the music, repetitious and cyclical as it is, joins in with this appeal to reason.
For a family that doesn’t listen to lyrics, wants to ‘feel’ songs, I think it must be very jarring when suddenly an oeuvre is presenting that appeals largely to reason than emotion, and whilst I don’t doubt their capability to understand, it may take some time to learn how to listen to a reason-appeal song.