Blog 1, Make-up

If we’re to not use adjectives to describe Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, the next best option seems to be verbs, and to use these verbs to say what the piece does.  This “parlour game” seems to be based on the idea of experiencing and engaging the music, rather than attempting to define it from the outside looking in.  There are things, and the things in the piece do certain things.  Nouns that “do” verbs is the only way to elaborate on the music in place without using adjectives.  I think it applies well to this particular musical piece; because if you are dealing with a piece of art that is different than the norm, and you can’t “describe” what is happening, you can experience it and explain what it is doing in your perspective.

The introduction flutters around, seemingly twittering about with an occasional banging of keys, with a woman’s voice that interjects and punches through the noise of the piano. The instruments change their positions from being background noise to being leading characters in any given instant.  The music clashes with itself.  It seems to refuse to harmonize, it refuses to flow, and the woman refuses to guide the music along.  The flute refuses to be ignored. They, more than the piano, and more than the other instruments, dominate their sections as they pierce the space.  The piano is the life of the music, without a doubt.  Whenever there is a lull the piano carries the piece along.  The woman, early on, disrupts the music while the piano continues to carry it and push the piece forward.  She fluctuates between singing and speaking.  At times she projects and at times, she merely is present.  There are times where the piece floats more in certain places, and the flutes make this effect.  It should be said that piano is capable of doing more, however.  It can be a force and it can be forgettable, depending on what surrounds it.  When the piano bangs, the mood changes aggressively, and the flutes bring it back to a place where the music can be a calming agent.

Oof.  I’m not sure if this is an easier or more difficult way to approach music.  In certain places, using verbs is the best way to describe what is happening.  The flow of the piece is so disjointed, and in some places so abrupt, that the only way to explain what is happening is to just say what is happening, rather than try to add an extra layer of confusion and disconnect by describing the actions. I think that the lesson that can be gained from this exercise is that music is much more of an action than a subject, and that it “does” more than it “is.”  The way that the woman performs seems to accurately depict the effects that Schoenberg mentions in the Albright anthology.

“It is never the task of performers to recreate the mood and character of the individual pieces on the basis of the meaning of the words, but rather solely on the basis of the music… where the performer finds it lacking, he should abstain from presenting something that was not intended by the author. He would not be adding, but rather detracting.” (38-39)

The music is the star, the music is the backbone, and the woman is merely there to play a part.  Her words seem to be meaningless, partially because I can’t understand them, but more so because it is more important “how” she says them, and how those words interact with the music, rather than what is actually being communicated.  The “Sprechstimme mode of Pierrot Lunaire” (39) serves as a perfect mode to have singers be a supplement, rather than the feature or main event of the piece.    It’s interesting that the singer has to differentiate between what Schoenberg describes as the “singing tone,” and the “speaking tone.”  She seems to do a fantastic job of this, and it has the effect of really complementing the tone of the music.  Harsher music, non-harmonic sections, places that seem to “bang” go very well with the spoken tone, and the areas where we hear flutes and softer instruments flow more smoothly work very well with the singing tone.


Blog 5

“Negro is a document of war against imperialism and capitalism. It does not deconstruct the color line, but rather seeks to make clear the stakes involved for the underdeveloped world in a situation of on-going capitalist development and bourgeois forms of nationalism.”

This quote is what I’m going to be looking at in terms of analyzing this anthology.  The notion of being anti-capitalist (or, likely more accurately put, the restraints that the capitalism of the time presented the black community) is one that I believe can be dealt with.  Cunard shows an appreciation for the struggle of black people to survive in the economic structure of the time.  The anthology is large and the ways to interpret are myriad, but the way that she approaches the city of Harlem and the manner in which she describes it leads me to think that there was a genuine feeling of respect for the people there.

I’m more familiar with the poem “Harlem” than anything else here, and there is no shortage of controversy associated with Cunard’s time spent in that neighborhood.  There is power in Hughes’ poem, and the language that he used resonated with myself in, I think, a similar way to Cunard.  There is a feeling of being genuine in this poem, and it would appear that Cunard saw how accurately and profoundly Hughes was able to represent that experience.  She references her time, the things that she saw in Harlem, with language that is similar if not directly pulled from “Harlem.”

“This (the ‘negro renaissance’) is not the Harlem one sees.  You don’t see the Harlem of the romancists; it is romantic in its own right. And it is hard and strong; its noise, heat, cold, cries and colours are so, And the nostalgia is violent too; the eternal radio seeping through everything day and night, indoors and out, becomes somehow the personification of restlessness, desire, brooding.  As everywhere, the real people are in the street.”

I want to touch on the term “real” because I think it’s one that has transcended the cultural shifts and social adjustments that have taken place over the many years since this was written, as to how it relates to black culture and city culture, and a culture of poverty that has been a part of the black experience since people started to notice it. To put it plainly, there is a connection between modern black people, (I’ll say that it’s even more relevant with modern black men) and a lady from the 20’s who used the term “negro” on a regular basis. I can’t imagine that anyone would expect that.  However, if you were to walk into a largely black neighborhood and ask people out on the street to define the term “real,” they would have similar definitions, I think, as Cunard has mentioned.  An anti-capitalism sentiment is in effect here, with the results being in the form of describing the idea of living in poverty, of surviving in adverse conditions, of being “hard” and “strong.” People who understand, who get it, who know what life is like and what tough experiences are, are real.  And these people can identify others who have experienced the same.  How well we can label Nancy Cunard as being “real” is up for debate, but it seems undeniable that she is someone who saw black people in a different light, and she took the time and effort to go to these places and experience them genuinely, rather than, as she says, someone who is looking to “go slumming.”

“Notice how many of the whites are unreal in America; they are dim. But the Negro is very real; he is there. And the ofays [whites] know it. That’s why they come to Harlem—out of curiosity and jealousy and don’t-know-why. This desire to get close to the other race has often nothing honest about it. . . .”

Now, the controversy that arose from her trips to Harlem could have been a fair criticism of her “fetishization” of the black race.  It’s difficult to know what her true intent was in her efforts.  The quotes about the people of Harlem being “real” gives her some credibility, in my assessment.  The claim that she is waging war on imperialism and capitalism is fair, at least when I look at how she respected the people of a tough place.

Nolan Mills- Blog 3

I’m having some trouble working with this term counterpoint in regards to Pound.  He is credited with masterful use of this concept, but as I try to narrow down what it means to him, these cantos appear to be contrapuntal in their entirety.  His body of work runs counter to what is the established order, his melody is a separate entity to that of the poetic norms and he asserts himself in a way that both embraces and rejects the classic aspects of poetry.  In the cantos themselves, there is rarely a lack of tension.  Use of symbols and other languages is constantly putting strain on the reader, and when combined with frequent repetition, a sense of clutter is created.  For a man who claims to be so interested in order, his work here doesn’t take on that appearance.

Eric Homberger writes in his book Ezra Pound (a free preview is where I located this passage) that “the motion of Mr. Pound’s melodic line is the motion of a frieze.  He has described it exactly in a passage in the twenty-fifth Canto:”

notes as facets of air,

and the mind there, before them, moving,

so that the notes needed not move.

“Whether the music passes across the mind, or the mind traverses the music, is immaterial; the important fact is the motion.”

Pound uses repeated phrases and lines in various forms and appearances that there are often many factions present in a given section of the cantos.  Homberger mentions a term that Pound uses called “echo-counterpoint,” in which repetition of pitch and rhythm creates an echoing effect that maintains a sense of harmony.  He offers this passage in Canto IV:

And by the curved, carved foot of the couch,

claw-foot and lion head, an old man seated

Speaking in the low drone…:


Et ter flebiliter, Ityn, Ityn!

And she went toward the window and cast her down,

“All the while, the while, swallows crying:


“It is Cabestan’s heart in the dish.”

“It is Cabestan’s heart in the dish?”

“No other taste shall change this.”

And she went toward the window,

the slim white stone bar

Making a double arch;

Firm even fingers held to the firm pale stone;

Swung for a moment,

and the wind out of Rhodez

Caught in the full of her sleeve.

. . .  the swallows crying:

‘Tis.  ‘Tis.  ‘Ytis!

We see phrases repeated, the structure established so that cadences are repeated, and as mentioned in Canto XXVII, “weightless… but moving, so that sound runs upon sound.”

We see that Pound employs certain techniques quite regularly; repetition is one of those that stands out.  Repetition of sounds and phrases creates a flow, which then can be stacked on top of whatever suits him.  From Canto LXXVII, the flow of this passage reads as having multiple layers, which are supplemented by symbols in this case:

and with the enquiry  WOT IZZA COMIN?

“I’ll tell you wot izza comin’

Sochy-lism is a-comin’

(a d 1904, somewhat previous but effective

for immediate scope

things have ends (or scopes) and beginnings      To

know what precedes                     and what follows

There are meant to be symbols in the gaps of precedes and follows, but even without them we see the flow and layering of phrases.  As Homberger puts it, “It is a harmony not only of sound, but of image.  The former quality is, like the counterpoint, achieved by iteration, by imitation, by a sort of recessive flooding of the phrase with the echoes and associations that have gone before; only, it is denser than the counterpoint, and static: motion is retarded, there is a piling up of resonances, the exact musical analogue is the resolution of cadence into chord.”

This sensation of counterpoint is present throughout much of his work, in some places the layers are so many and so dense that it reads like a fugue, with countless voices and subjects and answers that are weaved in and out of the work.  There is a conflicting combination of what Pound calls raga, which is toneless rhythmic arrangement, and tala, which is the sequence of notes at various pitches.  The structure is so fluid that it has a unique flow, combined with the fact that the various “notes” are of such variety, there is constant tension on the pages.