The Textualizing of Sound: Romantic-Period Pseudo-Songs

By Hoagwood, Terence | Wordsworth Circle, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

The Textualizing of Sound: Romantic-Period Pseudo-Songs


Hoagwood, Terence, Wordsworth Circle


The growth and technological transformation of printing and typography in the nineteenth century included a sort of synesthetic imperialism in print. For example, in 1810, Thomas Moore prefixed to one volume of Irish Melodies a prefatory letter (called, in later editions, "Prefatory Letter on Music") in which he wrote, "though much has been said of the antiquity of our music, it is certain that our finest and most popular airs are modern" (1), and he called attention to the new scores by Sir John Stevenson that accompany his verses in the 1810 printing of Irish Melodies. Though Moore wrote "with respect to the verses which I have written for these Melodies,... they are intended rather to be sung than read" (3), from 1822 onward he published the verses as a collection of poems with no music whatsoever. The project entitled "Irish Melodies" culminates in the deletion of music altogether, while the typographical simulation of it was mass-produced. With or without Moore's intention or wishes (and I think it was without), typography took over the project. The medium of print extirpated the antecedent medium of sound while exploiting its illusion.

Similarly, but five years earlier, in Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Sir Walter Scott had printed the verbal text of "lays, 'steeped in the stream of harmony'," although no harmony or melody or music of any sort were included (1802, xci). Another indication of the popularity of the nostalgic and folkloric theme, in the typographical culture of the period, is that Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan) had published Twelve Original Hibernian Melodies in 1805, three years after Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and her The Lay of an Irish Harp; Or, Metrical Fragments and Patriotic Sketches of Ireland appeared in 1807, in the same year in which Moore published the first part of Irish Melodies.

Typographically reproducible words are of course not really "melodies," though poets, editors, and publishers exploit the metonymic relationship of typographical products to sounds. Like paper money (also a typographical development of the same period, but a more controversial and less charming one (1)), ballads, lays, melodies, and songs proliferated in signs and symbols as they disappeared in fact.

In obvious ways, this metonymic surrogation of sound is not new: from the earliest written record of an Old English song, Caedmon's hymn, onward, in English poetry scripts were never really sounds though their scriptorial avatars said and say that they are--what exists is not the song of the shepherd Caedmon from the occasion of the bir-scippe, from which he hid because he feared he could not sing, until an angel endowed him with the gift of sacred song, but rather what exists is a scribal transcription of the Venerable Bede's verbal record, in Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, with Bede's Latin surrounding the Old English verses that he attributed to a shepherd named Caedmon who was already only a character in a written work. Outside Bede's narrative (in Latin), there is no indication that Caedmon ever existed, though the charming story of the bashful but pious shepherd gifted with song by an angel has been reproduced for centuries.

In all odes, in the fictitious singing of ancient and Early Modern pastoral poetry, the songs of Petrarch, the Piper's Songs of Innocence and the Bard's Songs of Experience, the Lyrical Ballads, Byron's Hebrew Melodies, Scott's "Lay of the Last Minstrel," and, among the vestiges of ancient poetry, the Song of Solomon, Psalms, and the pseudo-songs of Moschus, Bion, Theocritus, Anacreon (translated into English poetry by Thomas Moore), that which is script or typography is presented as if it were sound, of which it is at most a prescription (like a printed score) or a lexical imitation, like Moore's poems.

In the Romantic period, however, the typographical simulation of sound grows rapidly, and changes in this age of mechanical reproduction.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Textualizing of Sound: Romantic-Period Pseudo-Songs
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.