An Introduction: Poetic Function and Music

Hello!

My name is Jake and this my first official post as a member of the Linescratchers team and I could not be more thrilled about it.  To start off I would like to pose a simple question: what is poetry? Is it flowery words?  Or fourteen lines about love with a specific rhyme scheme?  Maybe even deep thought smashed into a simple text?

Well, if you ask Roman Jakobson, a Russian linguist born in 1896, it is none of these.  Poetry, or the poetic function, is simply communicating in a form different then the standard norm or language.  For example, if we spoke in rhyme all the time then rhyming sentences would become the norm or standard.  Any deviation from this norm, or not rhyming, would be using the poetic function.  Poetry is noticed and memorable because it stands out among the background of everyday speaking.  I bring this up to point out that poetry is made simply by being different, pushing your way outside the box in order to be seen, and if applied to music, to be heard.

I harbor the idea that in the heavily saturated modern music world, being different is as (and maybe more) important as being good or talented.  Granted, that talent and hard work make your craft presentable and polished but creating contrast between you and the norm is crucial when wanting to get heard.  The poetic function is just as important in music as it is in our language and communication.

I recently read a book for one of my classes called Insensatez which included some Mayan translations in the text.  The translations were always interesting and well worded, poetic even, but I soon learned that it is simple because that was how the Mayans spoke on a day to day basis.  Their norm was poetic to me because it was different.  Well, LDS musicians are different.  We might be playing the club but using our bar tab on a Coke.  We might be working (or trying to) as a rock star but not necessarily living like one.  And on the other hand, we might be religious but do not singing blatantly religious songs.  When it comes down to it, that poetic function happens just like how it did for the Mayans, and this is by simply being us.

I am excited to share my musical thoughts and tastes with you and gladly welcome your thoughts in return.  If you would like to hear some of the music I play, go to http://www.thesweaterfriends.com/.  As readers of Linescratchers, and really just for making it this far into my ramblings, use the code “amigos” under the music tab to get 15% off any of our releases.  There is also a free single there if interested.  Thanks!

Jake

An Introduction: Poetic Function and Music

5 thoughts on “An Introduction: Poetic Function and Music

  1. I am excited about these ideas you’re talking about Jake. We love to categorize music by its tone. Punk music is usually defined by its chord structures, its loud, aggressive tone, its general themes, etc. What if we could create genres that carry more nuance? For instance, “LDS music.” What if LDS music was more about an aesthetic than an actual tone or sound? Or, let’s give it a name. Let’s just call it Linescratch. For rhetorical purposes. What if “Linescratch” defined a genre of music created by LDS musicians, with all the subtle nuance that Mormons bring to the table (and all the quirks that make us a peculiar people like you said, including Coke), but it was, as you said, all vitally and fundamentally different?

    If a Mormon Renaissance is going to happen (which it will, and we’re going to start it you see), then perhaps this is what needs to happen. We all need to get together. Stand up for each other. Support each other.

    Thanks for posting Jake. Welcome aboard man. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

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  2. Mark says:

    Great post Jake, I enjoyed reading it even though I am of course not LDS. One of the things that I admire as an observer of the Salt Lake scene is how some of the hardest punk-rockers can be some of the most devout Mormons as well. The ex-bassist of Fail to Follow is on a mission somewhere in Portugal, and a ska-punk band known as The Skars from Ogden re-formed after two of its members came back from missions of their own. ( http://myspace.com/theskars if you’re interested). I even remember Tomas Kalnoky of Streetlight commenting at a show that one of the band’s members (I don’t remember which) was from SLC and was a devout Mormon. (And then there’s the Aquabats, but they’re something else entirely. Haha.)

    Anyway, I’m starting to ramble, but great post and I’m looking forward to seeing more! 🙂

    –Mark

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  3. I also appreciate that outlook on the essential beauty in that which is consistently different than the norm. I think a short flash of behavior is usually only “inconsistent” at best, while the lifestyle you talk about is far more than just inconsistency.

    Thanks for that point of view. Well-worded and concise.

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  4. Davey says:

    Great thoughts, Jake! Interesting stuff. I agree–I think personal and cultural authenticity is what makes a good deal of art great. You can see it at play in some of the best works of LDS art and literature–authors like Levi Peterson and Margaret Blair Young, films by Richard Dutcher, plays by Eric Samuelsen, etc. They’re not just great Mormon books and plays and films, they’re great books and plays and films period. Their grounding in their authors’ cultural, religious, and personal backgrounds lend these pieces authenticity, and, I think, make them universal, and, ironically, more interesting and even accessible to audiences from a variety of backgrounds. “Write what you know” is a cliche, but it remains good advice. That doesn’t mean every story or song needs to be autobiographical or take place in your hometown–what you know also includes what you’ve learned, your inner and imaginative and emotional and spiritual and intellectual life. It’s these things that make you unique and interesting as a person, and, I think, potentially unique and interesting as an artist as well.

    Also, I hope that Coke is non-caffeinated.

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  5. I just listened to “Us and Them” and want to thank you, Jake, for it. I also enjoyed reading your thoughts about poetry &c. You make some good points there. Did you study Linguistics by any chance?

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