Awhile back, I heard a well-regarded poet read her words so woefully on the PBS ‘News Hour’ that I truly could not follow the thread of meaning — the delivery was wooden, and so very artifical. In response, I wrote this:
The Music in Language
by Judith Lang Zaimont
[ (c) copyright 2009 ]
He squawks, he shrieks,
he pounds the tonic accents with such force
that I, as listener,
shiver from the assault of passion.
She, a renowned poet,
delivers in so mundane a monotone
that meaning is lost in waves
of falling intonation, arbitrarily
marking the end of every line
— her delivery, so leached of contrast
that all I, a listener,
is what she telegraphs:
This writer’s great detachment from the stuff of words.
Why, over and over
do we, as listeners,
suffer a newscaster’s dreary delivery
in one of just two modes,
“perky” or “solemn” ? –
No shades of variant meaning
no middle ground.
Why do we, as passengers,
puzzle through flight attendants’
irksome unreasoned stress on all
the small, connective, throwaway words?
Why not stress “life jacket”, “seat belts” ?
They’re important phrases
whose high freight of meaning
demands stress at highest pitch.
Actors know the secret of the music in language.
Pacing – let’s have a sliver of silence
before the keyword –
a half-beat of nothing.
Color — from shout to whispered syllable
(perhaps a whisper delayed).
Tempo — a stutter, a torrent, a mechanistic drone.
Add in Pitch to shed needle spots
right where meaning demands it .
These devices grant message to our delivery.
Music is in all these – and through music
Yes, we compose our thoughts.
Why not, then ,
like great maestros channeling a tonal army,
why not compose our saying of them?