Write2Day: Music and the Written Word

Data of manuscript unknown. Held in Florence, ...

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Over the last few years, I’ve come to appreciate the interconnectedness of all the various expressions of art. Consider how many photographic bloggers participate in poetry communities. How often do you see prose or poetry bloggers insert links to music in their work? Or how about visual or performance arts as an inspiration for the written word? Today, I’d like to present a few brief thoughts about how music and writing are wed.

Music and meter.

We discover an obvious connection between music and poetry when we write or read form poetry, which often is defined by meter. But even in prose, the writer often (consciously or not) seeks to create a rhythmic sequence of words that is pleasing to the ear. I’ve found myself searching for a word of a certain number of syllables or with emphasis on a particular syllable because my ear tells me it will work better than the word I may have chosen in the first place.

Music as a metaphor.

Use of musical metaphors can be so effective in evoking certain moods. Think about how you “feel” listening to a symphony as opposed to hip-hop. There are scenes where I’ve mentioned background music just for the purpose of creating an emotion. Use of musical instructive words, words that tell the musician to slow down (adagio), speed it up (allegro), play louder (forte) or softer (pianissimo) are just a few examples of techniques to add an emotional context to both prose and poetry. There is a very useful glossary of musical terminology at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_terminology

Music as Inspiration.

Many writers and artists use music to help inspire their work. I once read in a novel-writing how-to book (sorry, I can’t remember which one) the suggestion to create a sound track that represents the nature of your manuscript.

For today’s prompt, let’s turn to music. Here’s a few suggestions of how you might do that:

  • Write a form poem that calls for a specific meter such as iambic pentameter.
  • Use music as the subject of your short fiction or poem.
  • Employ a musical metaphor in your work.
  • Write a short essay on how you use music in your writing, or how music has influenced you in the past.

To participate, post your work on your blog. Access Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post and include your name and the direct URL of your post. Visit and comment on other participants in this prompt. Have fun with it!

Here’s a poem I posted a while back, a sestina, that combines music as a metaphor and meter.

Photo: David Slotto

Song of Songs

a Sestina

All the world’s a stage set to music.

You stroke my life like strings of Your guitar.

We’re born to fly so Your touch of gentleness

sounds a chord in my core that thrills.

Round and round You lead me in a dance—

the whirling rhythm swirls in my heart.

Rejoice, oh world; you hold grief in your heart.

Defy those who claim silence lacks all music.

Refute the clowns who refuse to dance—

Who, though called to joy, strum a dirge on their guitars.

Avoid the fool who rejects life’s thrill,

who sinks into the void with gentleness.

At dawn, mockingbird chants a song of gentleness

awakens the earth, enlivens her heart.

You stir in my Spirit-womb, Your Presence thrills.

Your promised love resounds of music,

Your hands play me as You would play Your guitar.

Our beings entwine and we enter the dance.

The earth and stars conspire to join the dance.

Ocean waves lick the sands with gentleness,

winds pluck the strings of willow tree guitars

while rain plants seeds in Earth—the Mother’s heart.

By day, the sun sings bliss—at night moon-music

plays arpeggios You designed to thrill.

I hear the door You open with a thrill,

arise to greet Your entry with a dance,

breath in the air You fill with sounds of music,

surrender to the call of gentleness,

responding to the rhythm of Your heart—

the wild beat of a classical guitar.

Submit my soul to music, the stroke of Your guitar,

Your voice, Your gentleness, never fail to thrill.

I yield to the tempo of your dance, lay down my heart.

Wordsmith Wednesday: VersePerfect–Guest Post by Mike Patrick

A poem made by Magnetic Poetry pieces. This po...

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For today’s Wordsmith Wednesday I’m pleased to introduce you to a fellow poet, Mike Patrick, who’s told me about a couple of helpful computer programs. I’ve asked him to review one that can be a godsend to those of you who write poetry. If you have rhyme-meter phobia and have avoided forms that call for this, this could be for you. 

VersePerfect by Mike Patrick

A while back, the Digital Goddess, Kim Komando, offered VersePerfect as the free download of the day. (http://www.komando.com/downloads/category.aspx?id=9969). In case you are unfamiliar with Kim Komando, she does a daily radio program and website entry on computers, cameras and most anything digital. I mention this because I trust her. What she mentions on her show, or lists in her website, is safe–safe as in “no viruses.”

Kim described VersePerfect as “a great program for poets, songwriters or anyone needing a little inspiration.” Because it sounded interesting, and I was thinking of starting a poetry blog, I followed her instruction in the above site and downloaded it. I have NOT been disappointed.

Once downloaded and run, VersePerfect appears onscreen as three adjoining windows:

  • a main writing/editing screen covering most of the right side of the monitor
  • two smaller windows, one on top of the other, along the left side.

Between the large and smaller windows are two columns. One lists the number of lines, the other lists the number of syllables in each line. If you write anything from haiku to sonnets, syllable counts are important.  (I offer a word of caution here. I’ve noticed the syllable counts being off by one number occasionally. I haven’t been able to figure out why, but it hasn’t been much of a problem; I’m anal and count everything anyway.)

After every word is entered into the main window, the top left window automatically fills in with a list of rhyming words from the built-in McGill Dictionary of Rhyme. This list updates to the last word you type. If you are looking for a rhyme for an earlier typed word, mouse click on it anywhere it appears on the main editing window, and the matching list of rhyming words immediately appears.

While all that is going on in the upper left standard-rhyme window, the lower left window begins to display a list of “context” words immediately after the completion of each word. This is a list of matching meanings for any noun, verb, adverb or adjective you may type. A little dropdown window allows you to select the context in which interests you. For instance, after the word “window” is typed, the dropdown context lists only “opening (n.)” with over 130 related words. “Window” happens to be of trochee meter. If you are writing a poem requiring an iamb meter, you will discover several in that list that are true to the poem’s meaning, but still having the correct meter.

While those three program-windows in VersePerfect will do most of the heavy lifting, across the top is a row of buttons that allow for the toggling on and off many of the features. There is also a row of buttons instantly linking one to a hyperbolic thesaurus, online lookup, Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dictionary.com, and Google.

The program also completes spell-check, prints your work, saves it within the program, or cuts and pastes to Word or another word processing program.

The only complaint I can churn up is the font size. It is not adjustable, or at least I haven’t figured out how to it if it is, and I wish it was a little larger.

VersePerfect has done everything I have asked of it, and I still have not used many of its functions and capabilities. As time goes on, and my needs change, I may use them. As for now, I can highly recommend VersePerfect. It almost feels like cheating when I’m writing a poem.

Best of luck in your writing,

Mike Patrick

Thank you, Mike. Be sure to check out Mike’s poetry on his blog at http://thepoetsquill.wordpress.com/

Writing and Music

I have music in my DNA, thanks to my grandmother who was a concert pianist and organist (and quite a character)! Although I studied some piano and played the organ in church, it’s been awhile since I’ve touched any keyboard other than my computer. But still, music lingers in my soul and body and, I’ve come to realize, invades my writing, sometimes without my being aware of it.

First, there is the obvious example of meter: the rhythmic flow of words to create emphasis or relief. Even free-form poetry and prose fall subject to rules of meter and for most of us this becomes an almost unconscious process. Have you ever found yourself searching for a two-syllable word instead of one with three-syllables because you sense, instinctively, that this would be more effective, would add more beauty?

Musical metaphors can enrich prose as well. Here’s an example from “Winter is Past,” in which the protagonist is reflecting on someone she loves:  For my part, I sat in silence and absorbed the words like notes of a fugue. The theme was life. The range of emotions covered octaves. Notes of joy, sorrow, revelry, and humor played a concert in my mind.

Using music to enhance description or setting can serve to create or reflect the mood of a scene as well. Do you want to convey relaxation or agitation, love or anger–think of a composition that reflects the emotional tone you want to achieve. 

Although it’s not part of my writing ritual, I’ve read of writers who play music in the background while they work. One even chose to record a soundtrack that conveyed the theme of his novel.

How does music inspire or transform your writing?

Tune in tomorrow morning for the Monday writing prompt. Chances are it will somehow relate to this post.