Come of Age: The Text of a Play in Music and Words

Come of Age: The Text of a Play in Music and Words

Come of Age: The Text of a Play in Music and Words

Come of Age: The Text of a Play in Music and Words

Excerpt

If you listen to the swings and returns of American colloquial speech, you read, as I believe, the last of the Elizabethan rhythms, the breathing-rate on which Elizabethan blank verse was surely founded. But, as you listen to modern English colloquial speech, your ear is aware that the rhythms are no longer the basis of blank verse. They are quick, clipped, dropping, shy, staccato, with an incessant, though irregular, chime of recurring sounds that match and half match. This modern slangladen prose speech has been caught, timed, and fixed for the stage by the younger writers of the day, in particular, of course, by Noel Coward. But I have not yet come across any modern plays in which these modern rhythms have a verse formula.

Is such a thing possible? Can a writer catch the breathing-pace of the modern crowd? Can he, while strictly limiting himself in the use of words, employing only the phrases of the hour, yet write of time and tide, life and death, love and hate? That is to say, is it possible to express real emotion in doggerel, which is the slang of poetry?

It seemed an experiment worth trying; though the language problem was not the only one: there was also the problem of the music. Typical popular modern music is dance-music, with its strict, unyielding rhythm. Yet its adoption into any theatre-music scheme that pretends to accompany and interpret a modern drama . . .

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