Since readers of text are also interpreters, writers, like musicians and performers, need that perfect blend of instinct—both informed and natural—and craft to create work that arouses and sustains interest, while accurately conveying their aesthetic and goals for the piece.
In my last post, I wrote: A story or book that begins with a long sentence comprised of soft-sounding words that elide into each other sets a leisurely tempo.
As though long sentences of soft-sounding words that elide into each other always set a leisurely tempo.
There is always the possibility of this, which would take a sharp turn to the deadly side of leisurely and stay there.
NOT the way to arouse and sustain interest.
In music, a sense of momentum—that the piece is moving forward—is as important as it is in writing, And composers create momentum by infusing their work with tension, and then resolving that tension, either partially or fully.
The following Brahms' Intermezzo is the first of three programmatic Intermezzi based on portions of the poem "Lady Ann Bothwell's Lament." Brahms called these pieces "...lullabies to my sorrows." This one uses a simple form: A-B-A, and is marked with the following epigraph:
Sleep soft my child, sleep soft and lovely!
I feel sadness when you weep.
The same melody is used in both A sections, with variations, and material from the A melody is used in the B section, but with a different character.
As you listen to the piece, notice the rocking rhythm associated with most lullabies, and listen for places where that rhythm is interrupted. How do those interruptions create tension in the piece, move it forward? How does the melody change throughout both A sections? Can you hear internal voices that answer or counter the main melody? Are there places where the melody sounds like it's going to end, but doesn't? How is the character of the B section different from that in the A section? How is the material similar?
Aside from being exquisite music, this Intermezzo is a marvel of economy and invention. There are no superfluous notes in it. Each phrase, each voice is derived from material that has already been presented. In addition, Brahms uses much more than just a rocking rhythm and pretty melody to engage the listener and keep them listening. He creates a sense of anticipation by changing harmonies, adding internal voices, increasing dissonances and then resolving them in unexpected ways, using deceptive resolutions, and working against the lullaby's natural rhythm. Finally, at the end, he fills in silences with small motifs from the melody, which moves the piece more quickly and decisively toward its conclusion.
Writers use all these techniques to move their work forward.
We use word selection and syntax to create rhythm in text, but we also use different kinds of action to slow or quicken it. When we upset that rhythm, it functions as a kind of alert to the reader. It makes them pause and ponder. We put guns over our characters' mantlepieces and use antagonists to create dissonance, and sometimes we take that gun and kill our antagonists to resolve the dissonance. Secondary characters add voices that reflect thematic material or further the plot, and deceptive resolutions are often used to lull us into a false sense of security before catastrophe strikes.
Finally, we tend to compress more action into smaller and smaller spaces as we head to a climax....
Causes Barbara Froman Supports
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Greater Chicago Food Depository
Lawyers for the Creative Arts