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  #11  
Old 02-19-2018, 10:09 PM
Tony Barnstone's Avatar
Tony Barnstone Tony Barnstone is offline
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So, I often use Tom Waits' "San Diego Serenade" to teach stress meter--I hear it as a kind of non-alliterated strong stress meter, two strong beats, caesura, two strong beats per line. Note that I always have to apologize to my students for line four, where he stresses MEL-o-dy as "mel-O-dy."


San Diego Serenade

I never saw the mornin' 'til I stayed up all night
I never saw the sunshine 'til you turned out the light
I never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long
I never heard the melody until I needed the song

I never saw the white line 'til I was leavin' you behind
I never knew I needed you until I was caught up in a bind
I never spoke "I love you" 'til I cursed you in vain
I never felt my heart strings until I nearly went insane

I never saw the east coast until I moved to the west
I never saw the moonlight until it shone off of your breast
I never saw your heart until someone tried to steal it, tried to steal it away
I never saw your tears until they rolled down your face

I never saw the mornin' 'til I stayed up all night
I never saw the sunshine 'til you turned out your love light babe
I never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long
I never heard the melody until I needed the song

I like to teach it alongside Tichborne's elegy, written in iambic pentameter, because if you SING the elegy, perhaps to the tune of "San Diego Serenade," the five iambs turn into four strong stresses with a caesura in the middle. It illustrates nicely the difference between poetic meter and song rhythm.

Tychbornes Elegie, written with his owne hand in the Tower before his execution

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of paine,
My Crop of corne is but a field of tares,
And al my good is but vaine hope of gaine.
The day is past, and yet I saw no sunne,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard, and yet it was not told,
My fruite is falne, & yet my leaves are greene:
My youth is spent, and yet I am not old,
I saw the world, and yet I was not seene.
My thred is cut, and yet it is not spunne,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death, and found it in my wombe,
I lookt for life, and saw it was a shade:
I trod the earth, and knew it was my Tombe,
And now I die, and now I was but made.
My glasse is full, and now my glasse is runne,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

Enjoy!

Tony
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  #12  
Old 02-22-2018, 10:22 AM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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Thanks for chiming in, Tony.

Yes, the stresses of both melodies and poems have relative strengths, complicating analyis. Waits's lyrics and melody seem to match pretty closely; the content of each line is in the first and last two feet, the melody's caesura carrying only the "til/until" connective stuff.

(FWIW, Nanci Griffith's cover doesn't stress the middle syllable of "melody.")
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  #13  
Old 02-22-2018, 10:30 AM
Michael Juster Michael Juster is offline
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GUI-tar is to some extent a class variation, not just geographic. That's important to note in Dylan & Guthrie.
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Old 03-02-2018, 09:01 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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I work alongside musicians every day, lots of them guitarists, and they almost always say GUI-tar even though the rest of their vernacular is not geographically or class congruent with that.

My hunch is that most rap lyrics are dependent on misappropriation of stressed syllables. I say hunch because I have an aversion to rap and can barely listen to it's rhyme-driven cliche-ridden babble.
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  #15  
Old 03-02-2018, 09:38 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Jim, your "hunch" is incorrect. I present some evidence; I do hope you'll consider it:

Eric B & Rakim - Follow the Leader
Slick Rick - Children's Story
Nas - NY State of Mind
GZA - Gold
OutKast - ATLiens
Organized Konfusion - Bring It On
The Roots - Here I Come
Clipse - Mr. Me Too
Kendrick Lamar - Swimming Pools (Drank)

As you will see from these samples, good rappers are in touch with natural rhythms and stress patterns and are able to wrap them around the beat. Undoubtedly, lesser rappers will stretch words to fit a recalcitrant context. I wonder who else does that...
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Old 03-03-2018, 09:43 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Mea culpa, Aaron.
It’s not the first time I’ve revealed my ugly prejudice towards rap music. My issue with the genre is that by-in-large it's focused on the dysfunctional, broken parts of our society. The parts that I know relatively little about nor do I have the inclination to want to find out more (beyond staying abreast in the news/current events). It's like those "Cops" reality tv shows. It leaves me with an uneasy, queasy feeling in my stomach. To me, life and meaning transcends current events and time. --But I stand corrected.

Thanks for the examples. They are cream of the crop. Any genre has it's dregs and peaks.

Aaron: I wonder who else does that...

Now you have me wondering... We all do? Except for Robert Frost : )
x
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  #17  
Old 03-03-2018, 10:15 AM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Oh, I just meant lesser poets also strain language in the same way—there’s no difference between rap and poetry there.
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  #18  
Old 03-03-2018, 02:38 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is online now
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I'm always impressed with the sonic effects of good rap music. The internal rhyme and slant rhymes are often ingenious and surprising in ways I don't find in even some very good poets. In listening to someone like Andre 3000, you never hear "creep" and nearly nod off expecting "sleep." It's something we can learn from, as poets. Certainly it's had a powerful, though I suspect largely unconscious, effect on what rhyme is pleasing to me, and therefore how I write it when I use it.
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