Edgar Allan Poe on Song-writing

“THERE are few cases in which mere popularity shoud be considered a proper test of merit; but the case of song-writing is, I think, one of the few. In speaking of song-writing, I mean, of course, the composition of brief poems with an eye to their adaptation for music in the vulgar sense. In this ultimate destination of the song proper, lies its essence – its genius. It is the strict reference to music – it is the dependence upon modulated expression – which gives to this branch of letters a character altogether unique, and separates it, in great mesure and in a manner not sufficiently considered, from ordinary literature; rendering it independent of merely ordinary proprieties; allowing it, in fact demanding for it, a wide latitude of Law; absolutely, insisting upon a certain wild licence and indefinitiveness – an indefinitiveness recognized by every musician who is not a mere fiddler, as an important point in the philosophy of his science – as the soul, indeed, of the sensations derivable from its practice – sensations which bewilder while they enthral – and which would not so enthral if they did not bewilder.” …

One thought on “Edgar Allan Poe on Song-writing”

  1. (..) “That  indefinitiveness which is, at least, one of the essentials of true music, must, of course, be kept in view by the song-writer; while, by the critic, it should always be considered in his estimate of the song. It is, in the author, a consciousness – sometimes merely an instinctive appreciation, of this necessity for the indefinite, which imparts to all songs, rightly conceived, that free, affluent, and hearty manner, little scrupulous about niceties of phrase, which cannot be better expressed than by the hackneyed French word abandonnement, and which is so strikingly exemplified in both the serious and joyous ballads and carols of our old English progenitors. Wherever verse has been found most strictly married to music, this feature prevails.”

    Edgar Allen Poe: Song-writing, in The Fall of the House of Usher and other writings.

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