Tag Archives: song

The Muse is a Musician

<J. Leigh sneaks in, stage right…>

Ahem.  Well, I’ve been a bad SisterMuse for….well…a really long time now.  So here’s a little post to hopefully catapult me back into Responsible Blogging….

“Sing, goddess, the wrath of Peleus’ son, Agamemnon…” (The Iliad)

“In the beginning Eru, the One, who in the Elvish tongue is named Ilúvatar, made the Ainur of his thought; and they made a great Music before him.  In this Music the World was begun…” (The Silmarillion)

The ancient poets had it right.  The muse of story-telling is a singer.  She’s a musician.

For Tolkien, the very story of the cosmos springs from music, when the Ainur sang all things into being.

And while Mendelssohn may have figured out that you can have “A Song Without Words,” I don’t know that you can have “Words Without A Song.”

Well, that sounds very nice…but what do I mean by it?  Is poetry only poetic when it is sung?  Is prose only proper when it has rhythm and melody?  No.  Not really.  Of course, for much of human history, I’d wager, story-telling was done through the medium of song.  The bards and skalds and scops and jongleurs of old knew that if they wanted to impress their stories into their listeners’ minds, the surest way was to sing them.  Something about music stirs a deeper part of the soul than words alone.

When I was younger, I briefly met a profoundly gifted cellist.  He was a wild child, spirited, with a startling naivete and a baffling, intense passion for his music.  Minutes before taking the stage to perform, I found him hanging from a tree, tie loose, pant-legs rolled up, long dark curls all in a mess.  Seemingly out of nowhere he said, “Did you ever notice how when you finish reading a book, the music stops?”

I’ve never forgotten those words.   Because they’re true — but also because I’d never even realized it.

I don’t really know what gives some books that music.  I definitely know that not every book has it…and I also know that the books that lack it leave me strangely dissatisfied.  I don’t know if it’s the mediocre plot, the dull, flat characters, or the bland scenery that drives away the music, or if it’s the lack of the music in the first place that makes a story so lifeless, but either way I find silent stories are bloodless, tired, bereft of inner light…. Dead.

I was going to write about ways we can think about music in story…but I think I’ll stop here for now, and come back to that idea later.  🙂

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