Chipping away at the block

Back in 2021 Nigel wrote a pensive about Covid-19 and writer’s block. Many of us, if not all, experienced this, as our contacts with other human beings diminished and communication stultified. Some of us, attempting to avoid what can still be a catastrophic infection, still find it difficult to get back into the rhythm of writing regularly.

For me the solution was to write music instead, and I’ve set myslf to write music for a poem by one of the writers here, Debbie Hubbard, my Pens ‘buddy’. She published this particular poem here in both its English and German forms, and it is the German version that spoke to me. My musical arrangement is underway, but I’m not yet satisfied with it, so it won’t appear yet. I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that a harsh, guttural language can produce the gentle sounds that are accompanied by the music of Schumann, Schubert, Brahms and Wolff

Photograph of Ernest Hemingway playing the cello
Ernest Hemingway cellist

Meanwhile here’s a photo of Ernest Hemingway playing the cello. Hemingway’s mother, Grace, a well-known musician in the village, taught her son to play the cello despite his refusal to learn; though later in life he admitted the music lessons contributed to his writing style, evidenced for example in the “contrapuntal structure” of For Whom the Bell Tolls.

The aspect which I feel crosses over from my years of instrumental practice into my writing, is the sheer discipline of keeping at something which never appears to get easier the more you do it, but provides its own reward when one finally makes a break-through.

Can you compose a phrase in ‘spiky’ language and make it sound mellifluous?

Can you write a phrase in ‘fluid’ language and make it abrasive?

Might this phrase be the beginning of a story, a poem, or a novel?

1 Comment

  1. Gill, I do want to thank you for working on music for my poem. I can’t wait to hear what you create!
    I do have to defend my second language though. It is not harsh and guttural unless Hitler or Goebbels is screaming into a 1930’s microphone. Misused in that way, any language would sound threatening and militant. That is probably why the Lieder by Schubert et al sound so magical: They are sung by heavenly voices.

    As to your challenge of writing in spikey and then melliflorous language, I’m afraid I don’t know the difference. I’ll have to pass.

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