Black Orpheus: Music in African American Fiction from the Harlem Renaissance to Toni Morrison

Black Orpheus: Music in African American Fiction from the Harlem Renaissance to Toni Morrison

Black Orpheus: Music in African American Fiction from the Harlem Renaissance to Toni Morrison

Black Orpheus: Music in African American Fiction from the Harlem Renaissance to Toni Morrison

Synopsis

This text explores how music has been elevated to the level of religion primarily because of its Orphic, magical power to unsettle oppressive realities, to liberate the soul and to create, at least temporarily, a medium of freedom.

Excerpt

Daniel Albright

The Need for Comparison Among the Arts

To study one artistic medium in isolation from others is to study an inadequacy. the twentieth century, so rich in literature, in music, and in the visual arts, has also been rich in criticism of these arts; but it is possible that some of the uglinesses and distortions in modern criticism have arisen from the consideration of each artistic medium as an autonomous field of development, fenced off from other media. It is hard for us to believe, but when, long ago, Horace said Ut pictura poesis—the poem should be like a picture—he meant it. Now that the twenty-first century has arrived, perhaps it will be possible to come near a total critique appropriate to the total artwork.

The twentieth century, perhaps more than any other age, has demanded a style of criticism in which the arts are considered as a whole. This is partly because the artists themselves insisted again and again upon the inextricability of the arts. Ezra Pound, for one, believed that, in antiquity, “music and poetry had been in alliance…that the divorce of the two arts had been to the advantage of neither, and that melodic invention had declined simultaneously and progressively with their divergence. the rhythms of poetry grew stupider.” He thought that it was the duty of the poet to learn music, and the duty of the musician to study poetry. But we must learn to challenge the boundaries among the arts not only because the artists we study demanded it, but because our philosophy demands it as well. the linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure, the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jacques Derrida, tend to strip

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