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-   -   Does it ever seem to you that songwriters get more credit than they deserve? (https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=601563)

davidbeinct 12-22-2020 02:06 PM

I liked your transformation of the Dadaist poem int blues. If I’m reading you right about purposely mixed diction though, I think the blues folks were careful about sound when doing so. E.g,

The lights is on people, but it happens just the same.
The lights is on, happens just the same.
In the swaying nights, you can hear the flames.

Rings true partly because “is” is more propulsive than “are.”

But “those” here isn’t as propulsive as either “the” or “them.”

I heard those shrill bells, there was spinning in the dust.
When I heard those shrill bells, there was spinning in the dust.
When the levee breaks, the dams is torn apart.

I’m going to read some more of your blog. Have you put that poem to music yet?



Quote:

Originally Posted by FrankHudson (Post 6582878)
Yes, this move to random connections and purposefully mixed diction is an old Modernist literary tactic that was at least 50 years old when Dylan started putting it to use in popular song lyrics. It originated during WWI when what passed for conventional wisdom was easily questioned by a group of artists who called themselves by a nonsense word: Dada. Some Dada lyrics and poems were just not-actual-words sounds, essentially pointing out the arbitrariness of language itself (rock'n'roll derivation, Gerry Goffin's lyrics to Barry Mann's "Who Put the Bomp...") Others used made up words or words used in nonsense ways. (Rock'n'roll derivation: I Zimbra by the Talking Heads, lyrics adapted from Dadaist Hugo Ball).

As you point out though, this kind of purposeful destruction or ignoring of normal use of language easily crosses over into meaning for a listener as the linguistic mind finds patterns just as the eye does looking at clouds or starfields.

I've translated some Dada poets myself, and it's a real challenge trying to figure out what to, well figure out as a distinct image, and what was intended to be a impenetrable random set of words.

Here's one of the most popular pieces done for my Parlando Project, translated from Dadaist Tristan Tzara "The Death of Apollinaire," a elegy written about the writer who died of the 1918 flu pandemic while still recovering from his war wounds just before the WWI armistice.

play my English translation and performance of The Death of Apollinaire

I think Tzara was sincere in writing this, or at least that was my best sense after translating it from French, other translators differ.

But when I was presented with the challenge of translating one Dadaist Hugo Ball it was a lot tougher to decide what to make into a perceptible English image and what to leave as random combinations. I wrote about that process in some detail on my blog, but the choice I ended up making was to make it into a blues (a move Dylan often choose too). After all, it's just not Dadaists who make us wonder what they're talking about, when blues like "Smokestack Lightning" are not exactly straightforward narratives even if they have undeniable power.

blog post about translating Hugo Ball's The Ghost into Ghost Blues

Here's a book that helped me consider how framing and expectations can change how one reads a song lyric compared to Modernist poetry. It takes a bunch of transcribed Blues lyrics and prints them as if they are Modernist verse, as if the pre-war Blues folks where Modernists like e e cummings or those Dadaists.

The Blues Line book listing on Goodreads

It took me a few years to decide. Yes, they were Modernists. Bob Dylan was smarter, he figured this by 1965 or so.


davidbeinct 12-22-2020 02:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mc1 (Post 6581478)
I took a little more time to reread your post. You make a lot of good points. I agree that brevity should not be a considered a barrier to greatness. There are some great short poems.

I know Dorothy Parker a little bit, and just spent some time reading some of her stuff. I liked it. It seemed miles beyond, "Don't Fear the Reaper" to me, but that's a bit of a tangent. Or is it, as I'm still trying to work out my point. Is it that the average poet is miles above the average songwriter, or that...

I don’t know about songwriters vs. poets but I’ll take Buck Dharma’s lead playing over Ms. Parker’s all day long. She was way too reliant on technique and was forever throwing in some myxolidian flurry when the song called for a tasty pentatonic phrase with plenty of breathing room.

FrankHudson 12-22-2020 02:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by davidbeinct (Post 6583034)
I liked your transformation of the Dadaist poem int blues. If I’m reading you right about purposely mixed diction though, I think the blues folks were careful about sound when doing so. E.g,

The lights is on people, but it happens just the same.
The lights is on, happens just the same.
In the swaying nights, you can hear the flames.

Rings true partly because “is” is more propulsive than “are.”

But “those” here isn’t as propulsive as either “the” or “them.”

I heard those shrill bells, there was spinning in the dust.
When I heard those shrill bells, there was spinning in the dust.
When the levee breaks, the dams is torn apart.

I’m going to read some more of your blog. Have you put that poem to music yet?

Thanks for reading all that and your perceptive response.

With the "those" choice I think I liked the sound of the z sounding s in those combining with the concluding s of bells. Looking at my choice again, I'm not so sure that I should go to present tense: "I hear shrill bells. There's spinning in the dust..."

My posts with audio pieces on the blog all had player gadgets to hear them, but some blog reader software (and maybe even some web browsers with some settings?) won't show them. I've started putting in alternative hyperlinks to play stuff on recent posts, but given that I've done more than 500 of them, I haven't gone back and added the alternative links to all.

Here's a link to the the Ghost Blues recording.

Play Ghost Blues

The amount of time I can put into each composition and recording varies, but given that I was doing a bit more than 2 pieces a week for most of this Project, and doing the research, writing the blog posts, and at times doing new translations of the words from other languages, you can image how fast I needed to knock out the recordings. At the time I did this recording I thought of it as demo and that I'd get together with others to do a better recording, but schedules couldn't line up and then the rest of 2020 happened.

JonPR 12-23-2020 08:55 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by FrankHudson (Post 6582878)
Yes, this move to random connections and purposefully mixed diction is an old Modernist literary tactic that was at least 50 years old when Dylan started putting it to use in popular song lyrics.

Oh I know all about Dada (I'm an arts graduate)! :)

I don't believe Dylan was a dadaist though. Many of his lyrics - in fact most - make good sense, and have a poetic charge. Even if his poetic techniques were sometimes crude, amateurish, there are plenty of beautiful images in his songs, some of them stunning. He always took music dead seriously, even when he was trying to be funny - just not in the same way as many of his fans did. I don't think he meant to feed the nerds.
Quote:

Originally Posted by FrankHudson (Post 6582878)
As you point out though, this kind of purposeful destruction or ignoring of normal use of language easily crosses over into meaning for a listener as the linguistic mind finds patterns just as the eye does looking at clouds or starfields.

Yes, that's a kind of additional angle. You have a few possibilities:

1. Complex poetry that means something, and is understood correctly (as the poet meant it).

2. Complex poetry that means something, but is incomprehensible..

3. Complex poetry that means something, but is misinterpreted (given the wrong meanings).

4. Complex poetry that means something, but is perceived as Dada-ist nonsense (assumed to have no meaning at all).

5. Dada-ist wordplay that is clearly nonsense..

6. Dada-ist wordplay that is perceived to be complex poetry (and thereby misinterpreted).

7. Dada-ist wordplay that accidentally evokes unintended meaning.

IMO, Dylan, at different times, was responsible for 1-4. I can accept occasionally he was responsible for 5-7. And of course sometimes he just wrote fairly straightforward song lyrics, not "poetry" at all, except in the sense that they rhymed and scanned!

John Lennon was never really much good at 1-4. But (at least in I Am the Walrus) he had a good crack at 6. (His books, btw, used sardonic neologisms based on puns, with occasionally unintentional surrealist impact - i.e., they sometimes worked as 7.)

Leonard Cohen, meanwhile, barely wrote complex poetry at all. He had the skill to use common language to express deep meanings - just the occasional striking image - seemingly surreal, but loaded with meaning. ("You notice there's a highway that is curling up like smoke above his shoulder"; "The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor"; "I'm junk but I'm still holding up this little wild bouquet".)

(Rest of your post is great stuff, no further comment here. :))

FrankHudson 12-23-2020 09:46 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JonPR (Post 6583631)
Oh I know all about Dada (I'm an arts graduate)! :)

I don't believe Dylan was a dadaist though. Many of his lyrics - in fact most - make good sense, and have a poetic charge. Even if his poetic techniques were sometimes crude, amateurish, there are plenty of beautiful images in his songs, some of them stunning. He always took music dead seriously, even when he was trying to be funny - just not in the same way as many of his fans did. I don't think he meant to feed the nerds.
Yes, that's a kind of additional angle. You have a few possibilities:

1. Complex poetry that means something, and is understood correctly (as the poet meant it).

2. Complex poetry that means something, but is incomprehensible..

3. Complex poetry that means something, but is misinterpreted (given the wrong meanings).

4. Complex poetry that means something, but is perceived as Dada-ist nonsense (assumed to have no meaning at all).

5. Dada-ist wordplay that is clearly nonsense..

6. Dada-ist wordplay that is perceived to be complex poetry (and thereby misinterpreted).

7. Dada-ist wordplay that accidentally evokes unintended meaning.

IMO, Dylan, at different times, was responsible for 1-4. I can accept occasionally he was responsible for 5-7. And of course sometimes he just wrote fairly straightforward song lyrics, not "poetry" at all, except in the sense that they rhymed and scanned!

John Lennon was never really much good at 1-4. But (at least in I Am the Walrus) he had a good crack at 6. (His books, btw, used sardonic neologisms based on puns, with occasionally unintentional surrealist impact - i.e., they sometimes worked as 7.)

Leonard Cohen, meanwhile, barely wrote complex poetry at all. He had the skill to use common language to express deep meanings - just the occasional striking image - seemingly surreal, but loaded with meaning. ("You notice there's a highway that is curling up like smoke above his shoulder"; "The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor"; "I'm junk but I'm still holding up this little wild bouquet".)

(Rest of your post is great stuff, no further comment here. :))

Trying to get briefer in each reply, so as not to overwhelm the thread (if I haven't passed that point already... ;)

Dang! That's a fine list there of the various ways folk, in both song lyrics and page poetry, depart from the straightforward and narrow. Yes, Lennon had a strong preference for nonsense intended as nonsense. Dylan has so many modes, but Dada and put on was one of them. He'd improvise it in his mid 60s interviews. There's a good deal of non-sense stuff in the Basement Tapes era material for example. Non-sense turned into song lyrics has an advantage, in that listeners won't necessarily be bothered by "What the heck is he talking about" if there's a nice tune, a compelling performance, some rocking riffs, or a refrain line they can relate to. I think of some of Pete Brown's lyrics for Cream.

I knew about Dada as an art movement not as a literary one before my project, I was kind of surprised at the range of the literature when I dipped into it. The couple of Tristian Tzara poems I've translated are more emotionally charged, intentionally so I think, than I expected. At least in the UK, I suspect the whole "Art School" as a place for the academic odd-balls factor led British lyricists onto that influence

You mentioning Leonard Cohen reminds me that I need to translate some more Lorca, apparently a big influence on Cohen.

Denny B 12-23-2020 10:06 AM

"Does it ever seem to you that songwriters get more credit than they deserve?"

I could pontificate, eloquently and prolifically, or I can just say No...

No, I've never, ever thought that.

JonPR 12-24-2020 04:32 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Denny B (Post 6583696)
"Does it ever seem to you that songwriters get more credit than they deserve?"

I could pontificate, eloquently and prolifically, or I can just say No...

No, I've never, ever thought that.

Me neither. But you're not entering into the spirit of pointless argument that is what these threads are all about! :)

(It's Xmas, we can't go boozing with pals due to lockdown, there's crap on TV, so we have to find some way to enjoy ourselves ... :D)

JonPR 12-24-2020 04:36 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by FrankHudson (Post 6583675)
I knew about Dada as an art movement not as a literary one before my project, I was kind of surprised at the range of the literature when I dipped into it. The couple of Tristian Tzara poems I've translated are more emotionally charged, intentionally so I think, than I expected. At least in the UK, I suspect the whole "Art School" as a place for the academic odd-balls factor led British lyricists onto that influence.

Right!
Quote:

Originally Posted by FrankHudson (Post 6583675)
You mentioning Leonard Cohen reminds me that I need to translate some more Lorca, apparently a big influence on Cohen.

Go for it. We intellectuals are obviously wasted on forums like this. :D

I'm off now to read some Foucault and Derrida.

(Actually no, I'm probably going to surf some more guitar forums... :rolleyes:)

KevWind 12-24-2020 08:05 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JonPR (Post 6584422)
Me neither. But you're not entering into the spirit of pointless argument that is what these threads are all about! :)

(It's Xmas, we can't go boozing with pals due to lockdown, there's crap on TV, so we have to find some way to enjoy ourselves ... :D)

Ha good point
I am old enough (just barely) to remember when beatniks sat around in their cool cat uniforms, celebrating their self anointed intellectual sophistication and individualism ,,,,
by snapping fingers at poetry readings because clapping was ....well...so plebeian and bourgeoisie

Nymuso 12-24-2020 08:20 AM

The OP is only looking at one side of things - the lyrics.

I was never a lyrics guy. Unless the lyrics make some point I find completely odious, they’re fine with me. I’m a music guy. If I don’t like the music the lyrics won’t make me like the song.

JonPR 12-24-2020 08:23 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KevWind (Post 6584490)
Ha good point
I am old enough (just barely) to remember when beatniks sat around in their cool cat uniforms, celebrating their self anointed intellectual sophistication and individualism ,,,,
by snapping fingers at poetry readings because clapping was ....well...so plebeian and bourgeoisie

Right. The same reason their earlier incarnations stopped dancing to jazz and sat and stroked their (ideally goatee'd) chins instead.

Where it was once "hit me daddy, swing that thang!", it was now "hmm, interesting harmonic substitution there..."
:D

KevWind 12-24-2020 09:02 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JonPR (Post 6584501)
Right. The same reason their earlier incarnations stopped dancing to jazz and sat and stroked their (ideally goatee'd) chins instead.

Where it was once "hit me daddy, swing that thang!", it was now "hmm, interesting harmonic substitution there..."
:D

Ah yes , "the human condition" Sometimes sad to ponder how far we have traveled to have advanced so little.

The need for many to establish an artificial set of criteria, to justify what is fundamentally the subconscious insecurity of desperately wanting to believe we are somehow elevated just a bit from the madding crowd, has not changed much in 10 thousand years......

Denny B 12-24-2020 04:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JonPR (Post 6584422)
Me neither. But you're not entering into the spirit of pointless argument that is what these threads are all about! :)

(It's Xmas, we can't go boozing with pals due to lockdown, there's crap on TV, so we have to find some way to enjoy ourselves ... :D)


All true...I think the 2020 Isolation Blues (there may be a good song there) has exhausted my usual willingness to take up either side of a good scrap...

I'll rest up over the Holidays, and try to hold up my end better next year... :)

KevWind 12-25-2020 09:42 AM

"Again and thrice be it said " :D. NO

And here is why

Consider the profundity and predictive nature of the Double D's
(Dickens)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair …, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way …”

(Dylan)
Come gather 'round, people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown

Come writers and critics
Who prophesie with pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall

JonPR 12-26-2020 06:13 AM

"Rulers like to lay down laws
And rebels like to break them,
And the poor priests like to walk in chains
And God likes to forsake them."

Robin Williamson, October Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KN84ld5xM9M

Poetry is the ability to use a few well-chosen words to express profound and complex concepts - which would take many paragraphs to explain in prose or conversation, if indeed it was possible any other way.

IMO, no one has managed to sum up the entire worlds of Politics and Religion as succinctly and perfectly as those four lines do. And he wrote that song in his teens (or early 20s at latest)! (He claims it was the first song he ever wrote, but I have my doubts there.)

Incidentally, Dylan recognised it at the time as a great song too.


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