Monday, March 14, 2011

Musicks Empire

First was the World as one great Cymbal made,
Where Jarring Windes to infant Nature plaid.
All Musick was a solitary sound,
To hollow Rocks and murm'ring Fountains bound.

Jubal first made the wilder Notes agree;
And Jubal tun'd Musicks Jubilee:
He call'd the Ecchoes from their sullen Cell,
And built the Organs City where they dwell.

Each sought a consort in that lovely place;
And Virgin Trebles wed the manly Base.
From whence the Progeny of numbers new
Into harmonious Colonies withdrew.

Some to the Lute, some to the Viol went,
And others chose the Cornet eloquent.
These practising the Wind, and those the Wire,
To sing Mens Triumphs, or in Heavens quire.

Then Musick, the Mosaique of the Air,
Did of all these a Solemn noise prepare:
With which She gain'd the Empire of the Ear,
Including all between the Earth and Sphear.

Victorious Sounds. yet here your Homage do
Unto a gentler Conqueror then you;
Who though He flies the Musick of his praise,
Would with you Heavens Hallelujahs raise.

Andrew Marvell

I’ve been inspired this week, inspired by great music, a beautiful atmosphere, and by a fellow blogger. The featured poem above is Musicks Empire by Andrew Marvell. This weekend I had the opportunity to sing Musicks Empire, a composition by Lloyd Pfautsch, at my school district’s annual Techny festival. Which brings me to my next inspiration, the Techny Towers. The achetecture is amazing and the acoustics are even better. Finally, my last inspiration comes from my friend and fellow blogger Melanie V, author of Silver-Lined Strata, who prompted me to write a blog about the songs featured at this weekend’s choral concert.

I loved this piece because the poetry is striking on its own, but the addition of music fits the mood of the text which heightens the experience. The song starts out with an ominous chant like tone as if the tenors and bases are quietly revealing the creation story of music. The idea that the World was made by a cymbal triggers images of a crash, or spontaneous event. The empire created by music gradually expands into nature, and cities, and people.

The song continues to build momentum as the solitary sounds eventually grow together into “harmonious colonies.” In my opinion the text is paired seamlessly with the music. For instance, the lyric “to sing men’s triumphs” is matched by a grand and full style and the words “victorious sounds” are accompanied by a lively melody. At the climactic end of the song you get the exaltation of Hallelujah, praising music and its effect on mankind.

The pairing of words and music can be a very powerful experienc especially when the music conveys emotions that the text might not have if it was just read aloud. This song is one of those moments of greatness between words and music. I highly recommend listening to Musicks Empire.

Monday, March 7, 2011

New Historicism

Hamlet is said to be a play that is universal; it’s understood by most and interpreted by many. Critics of Hamlet have even been applying “approaches to literature” to the text. To give you an idea, these critical approaches include: anthropological, archetypal, biographical, formalist, marxist, mythological, narratological, new criticism, new historicism, post-structuralism, psychoanalytic, reader response, semiotics, social, and structuralism. The perspectives are vast, but I’m going to narrow this post down to new historicism.

I initially thought that any historic approach to literature would involve crosschecking which parts of the book are historically correct. I was wrong. New historicism is not about looking up facts; it’s about what a text can reveal about the time it was set or the time in which it was written.

For Hamlet, the new historic critical approach reveals information about what it was like to be an actor, typical burial ceremonies, traditional royal succession, power structure, views of ghosts, and more. Culture is key.

No "history" can be truly objective or comprehensive because history is constantly written and rewritten. The writing of history is based on interpretation, and all interpretations are valid. Any piece of literature is valuable. That’s what I like about the new historic approach to literature…it’s an equalizer for all texts.

Similarly to my previous posts that say words should all be treated equally, for new historic critics, texts should be treated equally.

Being able to compare how Hamlet was received in the Elizabethan era and how it is read now, readers can more easily notice their own biases. The way audiences and readers respond to Hamlet is constantly changing because literature is shaped by culture and culture can be shaped by literature. The same interconnection can be applied to individual words. Words and text go in and out of use, but their existence demonstrates their importance at some point in time.

Here is a helpful link that applies multiple approaches to Hamlet.