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Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies - Vol. 48 No. 1 | March 2022 - Music

In William Blake’s “Introduction” to Songs of Innocence, the poet is also a musician, converting his piping into writing at the instigation of an angelic child. This originary link between music and literature—reflective of the (pre)historical oral transmission of myths and tales—continues unbroken to the present, as evidenced by the many musical interpretations of Blake’s poems, from American composer David Axelrod to the rock band U2.

This issue of Concentric seeks to explore the mutual influence between music and literature and to cultivate new methodological (and pedagogical) approaches to this relationship. While Vincent Barletta’s recent Rhythm: Form and Dispossession (2020) provides a transhistorical, ontological account of the primordial power of music, other scholars have examined its role in specific texts or cultural traditions: for instance, Elizabeth K. Helsinger’s Poetry and the Thought of Song in Nineteenth-Century Britain (2015) and Brent Hayes Edwards’s Epistrophes: Jazz and the Literary Imagination (2017). Edwards’s title plays on the incorporation into jazz of epistrophes, a literary device where words are repeated at the end of successive clauses. Such translation also works in the opposite direction, as in the musical leitmotif or idée fixe (as famously given in Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, for example), later used to describe literary leitmotifs. Thus, literary elements and structures are incorporated into such wide-ranging musical forms as . . .

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