QuoteItUp on Facebook
James Fenton quotes
Poetry carries its history within it, and it is oral in origin. Its transmission was oral. Its transmission today is still in part oral, because we become acquainted with poetry through nursery rhymes, which we hear before we can read.
The 1960s was a period when writers in the West began to be aware of the extraordinary eloquence and popular attraction of the Russian poets such as Yevtushenko and Voznesensky - oppositional figures who could draw crowds. The Russian poets recited from memory as a matter of course.
Composers need words, but they do not necessarily need poetry. The Russian composer, Aleksandr Mossolov, who chose texts from newspaper small ads, had a good point to make. With revolutionary music, any text can be set to work.
A cabaret song has got to be written - for the middle voice, ideally - because you've got to hear the wit of the words. And a cabaret song gives the singer room to act, more even than an opera singer.
A glance at the history of European poetry is enough to inform us that rhyme itself is not indispensable. Latin poetry in the classical age had no use for it, and the kind of Latin poetry that does rhyme - as for instance the medieval 'Carmina Burana' - tends to be somewhat crude stuff in comparison with the classical verse that doesn't.
A really interesting and happy time was when I first went to Florence as a student and studied Italian. I was living in a pensione on an allowance of £40 a month, which was princely. I did a lot of work and enjoyed myself immensely.
An aria in an opera - Handel's 'Ombra mai fu,' for example - gets along with an incredibly small number of words and ideas and a large amount of variation and repetition. That's the beauty of it. It's not taxing to the listener's intelligence because if you haven't heard it the first time round, it'll come around again.