Sunday, April 20, 2008

My Word

One of the first things you look for when you begin revision is the way you use and to link independent clauses in languorous rolls that spill across the page like waves breaking on some south-facing shore. Somewhere, perhaps as far back as when you were infatuated with the rhythm of Hemingway to the point where you could not hear your own, you picked up this habit, this unnecessary muscle memory. You have to watch to see if and is used thusly, lazily, watch to see if you can't get better music without all the goddamned ands.

Bad enough you picked up a loathing for that, will go out of your way to avoid that, cringe at the thought of two of them in a row--"he thought that that had been two thats too many and that that would have to stop."

So there is a sense of the inner song of a paragraph and a page, informed by Hopkins and Yeats, nodding along the way to the force that, through the green fuse, drives the flower almost as though you knew what Thomas meant. Auden, too, although he is not so difficult to discern and besides stories Isherwood told you about him and that time you and he drank many, many bottles of beer produced a sense of knowing something about the man.

So look at it this way, now, when the thinking stops and the process clicks in, you hear a particular music which you have somehow adjusted for. When you don't hear that music, what comes forth is just okay, serviceable, but likely to go on a bit, possibly even get repetitious. Listen for Waltzes Noble and Sentimental, Mother Goose, Fourlaine, all Ravel of course. Naturally, you'd want to get Gershwin, too, since he studied with Ravel. Somehow the Albeniez gets in from time to time, as does Bill Evans, Barry Harris.

It is comforting to know who you hear when you should not really be hearing anything but the words; hearing those individuals, occasional Fanny Mendelsohn, you're where you've worked yourself in to be. You cannot listen to Rosalind Targ or Wanda Landowska because Bach takes you away from you and into him, which is fine for listening to music as music but not for listening to your own writing.

The right combination of short sentences wrapped around longish ones, plus a little internal rhyme and deft Chaucerian alliteration--the holy martyr for to seeke that heym hath holpen when that they were sicke.

And Keats: The hare limped trembling through the frozen grass, and the grass is played off in alliteration against was, Ah, bitter chill it was/The owl for all his feathers was a cold/The hare limped trembling through the frozen grass.

You are not yet sure why you hear these things when you are into things; not sure how the process works, only that it does and if you don't hear things, then you are not quite into what you are writing about no matter what it is you are writing about.

In its way, this makes sense; you are trying to rationalize how it is you have come to hear music when you are inside what you are writing. The music you hear somehow translates to keeping the meter and intensity of how you want to say what you want to say; it even helps you exclude all the unnecessary stuffy you cast through while you are finding what you want to say.

Okay. You get that, even get the fact that the consequences of hearing music involve simile arriving like an unannounced guest followed by puns.

1 comment:

R.L. Bourges said...

Dear Mr Lowenkopf: I am addicted to and. And can't imagine writing and talking and moving my hands as I do so without and. And also, I wanted to say that that shouldn't be a problem if that and and are part of one's music. No?
Yours truly and so on