Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Monday Poem

A real challenge from TFE this week.

We were to listen to a 10-minute piece of music by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, called Threnody for the Victims and write whatever it inspired in us.

The Fundamental Inscrutability of Musical Sensibility

Now, I like a good tune, me, Dad said.
Something can I bawl off-key
And bounce off every steamy bathtime tile.

Volins scream a hard knife-edge
Across the horizon of my hearing.

You can't hum this on your way to work,
Nor tunelessly whistle what hasn't got a tune.
How do they even know they're playing it right?

I'm chilled to the bone by notes on taut leashes
Gnashing their teeth at each other, barely a semitone apart.

And what's all that jungle-banging drums malarkey?
It sounds like an old tin dustbin
Tossed down a light of concrete steps.

Now comes the hollow bass, a dark cavern,
A pit yawning wide at my feet.

Aye, it's a moving piece right enough, he laughed.
When I heard it I started moving away at once.
My Dad, the music critic.

Their screams, I hear them now.
Now and probably forever.

I have to say I dislike this kind of music intensely (my own modest efforts are slightly less edgy than Barry Manilow, which explains a lot) but there is no denying there is power in this piece - power and terror.

Great challenge, TFE!


  1. Quite a different result to mine but there is still the same menace in there.
    I really like
    "I'm chilled to the bone by notes on taut leashes....."
    What an image!

  2. An interesting take on the piece. I don't listen to this kind of music very much but I wouldn't say I dislike it. I think composers of music should be as free as any other writers to try things out.
    I like the Dad's voice in your poem though. My Dad-out-law could be that Dad too!

  3. I don't know the piece of music and I don't know the composer.
    Your poem describes it as hellish. Maybe I don't want to hear it.

  4. Argent, how did you do this! In ten minutes? Please tell me it wasn't in ten minutes?

    That aside (ignore me, just poem envy) I really like this. Great device to have the two voices, and the humoour is jarred by the horror is jarred by humour ...

    Like Dad's voice very much. Also enamoured of the line Wigeon picked out.

    Good one!

  5. LOL! I think I've met your dad. Don't listen to him. Your own take on the music was great.

  6. I did consider entering this week, but still not confident about the whole non-rhyme thing

    I liked your approach and the humour worked really well - i could see my own dad doing the trying-to-be-trendy thing of going "Hey, what's this - it's got a good beat" and thinking he was funny :)

  7. Who says it has to be non-rhyme? I did a rhyme one a few weeks back. Hell, rhyme is back (finally...been waiting for long enough!). Apparently poet Don Paterson's new book has rhyme in it again so it's safe to come back out of the closet, people!

  8. Great Stuff Argent - really like the interplay of voices - and your painterly evocation of the piece itself. Some great imagery.

  9. I very much like the interleaved voices of this poem - excellent work!
    I'm with you in the lack of appreciation for certain kinds of music, especially non-musical ones. Is it Art? Says who?

  10. Very creative take on the piece. Well done, Argent.

    I especially liked "something I can bawl off-key".

  11. you've got this with just the right amount of flippancy - something i utterly failed to do!

    i liked the tin drum and the not whistling it on the way to work

  12. Amen to that, Argent! Interesting that your final lines really captured the intent of this sound experience. (I still can't get myself to call it music even though it is...albeit dissonant for 90% of the piece.) I like the way that you have posted your initial reactions with explanations...and I love your title. Undeniably agreeable!

  13. You,ve done a great job hereargent , and come up with a fine poem.That is a seriously good title too!I liked it all, I loved this...

    'Volins scream a hard knife-edge
    Across the horizon of my hearing.'

    The wholev thing a great balancve of humour and empathy.Tancxz ye.

  14. Thanks everyone for the kind comments.

    Confession: I messed up a bit with this. I was listening to the piece and was interrupted by a callout for our IT systems. When I got back, I forgot what we were meant to be doing and googled the composer, read about three sentences and remembered we were supposed to be doing the challenge with no knowledge. The phrase "semi-tone clusters" stuck in my head and gave rise to the "notes on taut leashes..."line that Wigeon liked.

    Aside from that, it really did only take about 10 minutes (sorry Titus!) as I can never spend any time on a poem - it comes spurting out or it doesn't. I'm calling it the 'knee-jerk' school of poetry.

    A few folks mentioned they liked the 'Dad's' voice here. This is pretty much what my Dad would have said (only with more expletives). Actually, it's kind of my reaction too. I'm not a fan of this kind of thing, as I said, but It does evoke terror and loss pretty well for all that.

    The two voices thing came to me aftr I had written two of the 'Dad' verses and I realised I was just rubbishing the piece and not engaging with it properly.

    Friko, you should have a listen to the piece - it does have power.

    Don't Feed the Pixies - Poems can rhyme or not as the poet chooses. End of. If you're happier with rhyme, go for it - there's still room on da bus.

    I'll be round to visit those whose no-doubt excellent posts I have yet to sample.

  15. I love the two voices in your poem, and I'm afraid I have to agree with your old da on the music! Good take on an almost inexplicably hard piece of music.

  16. I really like your approach to this. My own dad would have reacted similarly, thinking "Danny Boy" the only piece of music worth listening to. (That's not entirely true; he did love good music, my dad, but this he would have called "cats caterwauling in the backyard".)

  17. He he, it seems everyone's Dad can't stand this strange music.

  18. Been away in Wales for a week: just catching up. What a good one. I don't think I ever remember reading a poem about "modern music" and people's reaction to it before.

    I must say my reaction is the opposite. I just love the piece - and a lot of other 20th century classical music as well. It hit a nerve with me in my early teens and, like a lot of things that do that, it stayed with me ever since.


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