Allen Ginsberg and Tom Schwartz on John Milton – 4

Allen Ginsberg and Tom Schwartz 1980 Naropa class on John Milton continuing from here

TS: Let’s see …”But oh the heavy change, now thou art gone -/Now thou art gone and never must return!” }  –   If you can find those lines..  I’m not sure if it’s that…

AG: In Lycidas?

TS; In “Lycidas”.  This passage may be choral or a Greek chorus, there’s no specific indication that it is solo, and there’s,,

AG: Okay, that’s line thirty..  that’s page three oh seven, line thirty-seven –  “But oh the heavy change, now thou art gone -/Now thou art gone and never must return!” – And what’s the point of that musically?

TS: The iambic five-foot line suggests a slow three-two meter

AG: Okay, first – The iambic line –  “But oh the heav-y change, now thou art gone” suggests the…

TS: A slow three-two or three-four meter.

AG; Da-da da-da da-da da-da da-da

TS: He’d put [clapping in accompaniment] – “Oh the – heav-y change”…  something like that – a three-four meter,

AG: Well, could you clap it out?

TS: “But, oh the…”  –  [continuing clapping in accompaniment]

AG: “But oh the heavy change, now thou art gone”.

TS: [continues clapping] –  “….heavy change, now thou art gone“.

AG: That’s country ‘n western – three-four – Like.. [Allen begins singing with a country ‘n western lilt] – “But oh the heavy change, now thou art gone” – “Now thou art gone and never must return” – Is that it? – Is that what he was talking about?

TS: Yeah, there are sections that can be sung for choral, with many voices, and things like that.

AG: I see.  And what were the two meters?  – the three-four?  – which we were singing, that was what we were just doing….
TS: Three-two-one.
AG: That was what we were just doing. What were we just doing?
TS: Three-four.
AG: And what’s a three-two?
TS: Three-two would just be a…
AG: What were we just doing, three-four?
TS: Three beats half notes. It’ll be longer – it would be  “O…the..”. – (Tom Schwartz begins singing the line)  –

AG: “Oh the heavy change..” – (Allen continues singing the line – but haltingly)   ” But Oh the heavy change, now thou art gone” – “and never must return” – “Thee, Shepherd thee the woods (and desert caves)” – and on…

Student:  ..Read those indented lines.

AG: Oh those indented lines?

TS: There was something about the indented lines that I’m looking for.

AG: They just look like the beginnings of paragraphs to me.

TS: No, he breaks the into shorter lines occasionally, which get more lyrical, I think..

AG:   Yeah..Well, was he suggesting that that was originally intended for chanting and singing?

TS:  Yes, he suggests that Milton’s background…let’s see, at the end of his conclusion – “As used in Italy the word “monodia”  was used specifically by a solo voice in the new recitative style [recitative] -and it was so used by Pietro Della Valle and his Discorso –  ((I) can’t read the Italian) -[Discorso sulla musica dell’età nostra]  and by Giovanni….  and it’s also..

AG; So this is pre-operatic Italian musical church forms? And Milton spent a lot of time digging Italy and travelling in Italy and this was his literary poetic influence and heritage

TS: And they were for solo voice in a style which was thought to resemble that used for monodony in Greek tragedy (which the Italian Renaissance was trying to respect and find a rhythm to)…and Milton was aware of all that and put that into “Lycidias” is what the argument here is.

AG: And then he says, on line ten of page three oh-six of the beginning of “Lycidias”.  Yes it’s monody, yes, monody. You recited the definition for monody here.

TS:   It was a single voice.

AG: “An elegy or dirge sung by a single voice” – Ok – Song – and he says – “Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew/ Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme”  – (that’s nice – so it’s all song again)

When I read this originally in high school, I just assumed that it was one of those poems you read on the page and you read it aloud and declaimed it. But there’s, actually, well, there’s a big influence of song here, of actual music and actual song. And that whole approach and body has been completely lost by the twentieth-century (it’s like nineteenth-century agronomy, or something, like nineteenth-century tech[niques] – [the sound cuts out briefly here] – (So we)…have the historic task of following our precursors, Ezra Pound and friends, precursed themselves by Thomas Campion and others and restoring to our awareness the practices, the quantitative. – Pretty good! – The whole world’s opening up. See, there’s very few places that know anything about this – or if it’s taught at all, it’s taught as part of Greek courses but with application to English verse, or in English verse it’s taught in a very dry way, and usually biased against further consideration of tone and duration of the sound of the vowels. Well, it’s just interesting.

[Audio  for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-one-and-three-quarter  minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-seven-and-a-quarter minutes in] 

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