Speech and Song/Music and Poetry
From: William R. Bauer
08.12.2004 00:13:34
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I'm studying the relationships that emerge when we compare speech and song. 

Specifically, I'm interested in the nonverbal aspects of the spoken word: prosody--or paralinguistics, to linguists.  The phenomenon of suprasegmentals, for example--the melody of speech intonation, which connects words into complete semantic utterances--relates to what songwriters and improvising singers do in creating or recreating a melody.  By extension, an instrumentalist’s rendition of a song may bear the traces of  the word’s prosodic impulse.  Especially when the instrumentalist is emulating the legato expression of bel canto singing or the percussive attack of jazz singing, the phrasing and articulation may provide clues into the role suprasegmentals play in the instrumentalist’s sound image.

I've also been exploring the music-language relationship in other ways (see Bauer, William R., Scat Singing: A Timbral-Phonemic Analysis, in Current Musicology, nos.71-73 (Spring 2001-Spring 2002), 303-3230. 

I find myself wondering lately if the comparison between music and language isn’t slightly askew.  Wouldn’t it be more productive to compare music to poetry, since both are more highly organized or stylized aspects of everyday human experiences--namely sound and speech.  Consider that the rhythms of sound and speech are generally unmeasured, whereas the rhythms of music and poetry are generally measured.  Some of the arguments against the music-language relationship dissolve when such a narrow category as Music is no longer held up against such a huge category as Language.

I’d appreciate any information this group's participants may have about people who are researching the neurological and cognitive basis for the relationships between speech and song, or between poetry and music.