Langston Hughes And Gwendolyn Brooks, Sound Over Sense

1648 words - 7 pages

Poetry and music are both used to express feelings or provide insight into situations that the authors find significant. Minstrels have historically mixed these two arts in acts of around the world; they combined readings of poetry with instruments. Music and poetry both have a rhythm that serves as the foundation that form a spiritual connection. Music has long focused on creating a feeling throughout the audience. Jazz in particular focuses on improvisations, combining rhythms, and creating a “swing” or a feeling that creates a instinctive response. Although Jazz began as an American movement with just a single type, it has expanded into an international genre with many different ...view middle of the document...

The blues create his identity, his very “black man’s soul”. In singing the blues he sings his life, the singer doesn’t care what is communicated, he simply cares that it is communicated. The communication isn’t just verbal though, it’s an experience. Initially in the poem it is unclear whether the “droning” and “rocking” belongs to the “I” or the “negro”. This infers that the music the singer creates requires the audience’s participation. The music itself creates a response, the thumping of the foot. By creating a connection between the singer and the speaker through music alone Hughes has demonstrated that music can bond individuals on a deeper level. Through music the importance of what is being communicated drops away, all that matters is that the singer’s pain is communicated to everyone in the room and that pain echoes with them.
Hughes’s poem deals with the singer, his song, and how it affects the audience. The poem is presented in third person by an unnamed speaker. At the time Hughes wrote his poem African Americans typically lived in Harlem which is the northern part of the New York area. When our speaker refers to the street on which the performance takes place he says, “down on Lenox Avenue”. This statement suggests that our speaker is African American. Knowing both our speaker and our singer to be black it is interesting to consider the ninth line of the poem “with his ebony hands on each ivory key”. As the singer makes “that poor piano moan with melody” he transforms western music into something entirely new. The piano becomes part of him just as our unnamed singer becomes part of the audience. This music our singer creates is something that is transformed by black tradition and black sorrow. It characterizes black culture into echoing blues in the speaker’s head. The Speaker argues that he “heard a Negro play”. This suggests that the speaker believes it to be an entirely auditory experience while the reader engages solely visually with the musician. The musician doesn’t seem to prefer one method versus the other, he just wants people to understand him for who he is and through music he can accomplish that.
As the poem progresses the singer first presents an eight bar stanza that sounds hopeful at first, but quickly gives way to the second stanza. The short-lived nature of this stanza reflects the blues representation of loneliness and hopelessness. In the second stanza the singer expresses weariness and wish to die. Ultimately the speaker and singer never engage each other in any activity save the performance. Through the connection the song created these two individuals are connected. Although neither knows anything about the other the speaker feels compelled to share this story.
When the speaker says “I's gwine to quite ma frownin” it becomes apparent that the use of dialect will be important to this poem. By writing the singer’s portion in dialect style Hughes breaks down the rules of English instead favoring a more open...

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