Recently there was some heated discussion online about a “new poetic form”, the “anchored terset.” Described in the literary media as “radically condensed” and coined by Lisa Matthews as part of the Northern Poetry Library’s celebration of National Libraries Day, the form comprises three words and a full stop. It is argued that such a condensed form is democratic and suited to social media; anyone may find the time to write three words. This was at the core of criticism of the form, and while much of the vitriol can be discounted there are fruitful lines of critical enquiry concerning the form. Poetry can be described as compressing or abbreviating complex ideas in concise ways which are then unpicked by the reader. Compressing an idea into three words that evoke the right associations to paint a picture or provoke thought is immensely challenging: it may be easy to write three words but picking the three best words is not easy.
This article was written for the Reverse Thieves Anime Secret Santa project.
Your Lie in April opens in a way that suggests it will be a very unremarkable handling of well-worn themes in fiction about musicians; the iconoclastic performer whose playing style disgusts the Establishment and enthrals audiences, the retiring prodigy who has lost their confidence, etcetera. This is not to its detriment; it may not shake the boat in how it tells its story but it nevertheless, in episode 2’s scene of Kao playing her recital piece in a violin competition, depicts in a relatable way the thrill of hearing familiar music in unfamiliar settings. The “different” classical musician, the one who makes a stuffy musical canon fresh and new again, is a real-world phenomenon primarily of hype and PR; artists like Charlotte Church, Vanessa Mae et al come and go, each bringing their own easily hypeable angle to a musical genre that the media wishes to claim irrelevant.
My previous blog post on Giant Robo emphasised how it insisted that the viewer remained resolute in their belief in a simple, good versus evil, conflict – this is a useful lie needed to keep anyone, particularly protagonist Daisaku, from thinking too much about Big Fire’s motivations. The series is set at a point in a longer, ongoing story where the mountain of these useful lies that was necessary to perpetuate a content, prosperous society is beginning to collapse, and the villains’ plan is to speed this along by force. Yet what makes it such a compelling animé – and what adds so much to the storytelling – is the use of the soundtrack to manipulate the audience’s responses, and then undermine them.
The pastime of karuta is a fascinating one; a kind of competition of literary knowledge mixed with a test of reactions, based upon recall and identification of poems from the 100 verses of the hyakunin isshu. It received significant visibility in pop culture – especially overseas, thanks to the growing popularity of international availability of animé – with the airing in 2011 of the series Chihayafuru, which focused on a young girl learning the apparently unpopular hobby. While the series, with its emphasis on presenting how welcoming and inclusive apparently forbidding niche activities can be, and on the importance of persevering with things regardless of how unpopular or difficult they may seem, works as good entertainment in its own right, it drove me towards the hyakunin isshu themselves.
Recently there have been a series of exciting electronic albums released from artists such as Lazerhawk, Miami Nights 84 and Mitch Murder which use the sounds and rhythms of 1980s disco music; the focus of these albums is as much to create such music for the modern age as to slavishly imitate the past. This is done through making the music self-consciously retrospective in every sense; the use of classic synth sounds and rhythms is combined with spoken-word and found-footage segments which evoke the period from which the music is supposed to come. Similarly, the videos for the songs use archive footage both of people of the time and the pop culture of the time; Lazerhawk’s Space Is The Place uses footage from Space Battleship Yamato to form its video.
Introductory note: up until Christmas I aim to post an article a day about something interesting I found during the year. The articles won’t be much different to normal, except a little shorter.
Treatments of the mass media in dystopian science-fiction generally tend to present it negatively; the influential power of the media is presented as a tool of oppression or of suppressing revolution and generally Juvenal’s aphorism panem et circenses is cited. The idea is that by providing easily-understood and followed media in vast quantities, the population can be distracted from dissent by virtue of being content with their leisure-time. It is ultimately sound logic; a content population are less likely to rebel and a population obsessed with light and unchallenging entertainment may become less receptive to subtexts and more complex ideas.
Note: This article is also available at Super Fanicom here
Note 2: This is not really a formal entry in the Eureka Seven series blog, but it is related to the series.
Electronic, ambient and post-rock music, in which melody can be a far more fluid and delayed thing than in other genres, is of great interest to me. The importance, I believe, of this kind of music, is in the entire piece as a journey; while passages may have recognisable melodies, the entire track becomes one long melodic phrase, often building in tone and timbre. There is a great joy in repetition because centuries of musical tradition have associated a repeated motif with a sense of building towards a climax – by removing the climax, the release of the musical development, modern artists can play with musical tradition and expectation and turn an entire track into an almost-fugal experiment.
Note: Quotations are taken from Baring-Gould, 1890, for The Female Highwayman and Cara Dillon’s 2001 recording of Donald of Glencoe (from Cara Dillon)
The “love-test” ballad, in which the worthiness of a suitor is judged by means of some trial or challenge, forms one of the main stock ballad plots. However, the two examples featured here take this format and change it; usually the test is of wit and mental skill (as in Captain Wedderburn) or a means for a woman to escape the attentions of an overbearing suitor (as in Scarborough Fair and its variations), but these examples have a woman take on a different persona and appearance to test the fidelity of their suitor.