It's a song. And a poem. But not a song-poem?
September 25, 2014 12:01 PM   Subscribe

What's it called when a spoken-word poem has musical accompaniment? And what are some excellent specimens of the genre? To give you an idea of the sound/feel I'm looking for I've included a few examples below the fold, the tracks that inspired this quest for

Music like this:
Migala - Gurb Song
The True Wheel - 9 minutes & 36 seconds-long poetry song

I mean, from these I've just been calling them song-poems, but that term is already taken by the genre of American folk music generated by small-print text ads in indie newspapers. These aren't that. Maybe it's a 'gurb'? Anyway, the google isn't helping me any here because I can't come up with unique enough keywords. What should I call it? What others should I hear?
posted by carsonb to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Singspiel? (Singspiel doesn't have to be German.)

Talking blues?
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:08 PM on September 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

a spoken (non-sung) passage in an opera is called recitative.
posted by bruce at 12:10 PM on September 25, 2014

Recitatives are sung. The rhythm is freeish, but not the notes.

I apologize if I misunderstood the question. The recordings you've linked are just speech, with little or no rhythm, with music in the background. I don't know a name for that specific form.
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:13 PM on September 25, 2014

In classical music the term melodrama is used for speech with musical accompaniment.
posted by in278s at 12:15 PM on September 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Marianne Oswald - La Grasse Matinée by Jacques Prévert.
posted by matildaben at 12:17 PM on September 25, 2014

Bit far afield maybe, but Benjamin Bagby does recitations of Beowulf while accompanying himself on an Anglo-Saxon harp.
posted by dorque at 12:21 PM on September 25, 2014

Don't know what it's called. My favorite is Patti Smith's Piss Factory.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 12:28 PM on September 25, 2014

Word Jazz?
posted by univac at 12:43 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

The recordings you've linked are just speech, with little or no rhythm, with music in the background. I don't know a name for that specific form.

Soap opera?
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:46 PM on September 25, 2014

I've always just considered it spoken word with music. Another example is Ani Difranco's Parameters.

A somewhat different, darker and more electronica-oriented take: Nicole Blackman's work with Recoil: Breath Control, Chrome, and Want. These are NSFW and have some violent and sexual content in the lyrics, fyi.
posted by yasaman at 1:26 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am going to call these Cold Hearted Orbs
posted by thelonius at 2:42 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, hooray! A chance for me to recommend the extraordinary Kate Tempest and Brand New Ancients (bottom right of that page).

It's a modern day Greek tragedy, an epic set in contemporary south London. The full thing's an hour long and performed over a live score played by tuba, cello, violin, drums and electronics. It varies from pure spoken word to rap/song and all points in between.

I saw it on stage last year and it was awesome, in both modern and traditional senses.

Part I
Part II
Part III (Part III trigger warning - sexual assault/violence)

You can find links to buy the full audio on that project page linked to above. Sadly no sign of a DVD for sale, as she's a mesmerising performer.
posted by penguin pie at 4:15 PM on September 25, 2014

Havalina Rail Co. was a band in the 90's that did some of this. For example, Proportion Thing.

And I almost forgot to mention the classic "Woman Woman" poem from "So I Married an Axe Murderer."
posted by tacodave at 4:17 PM on September 25, 2014

Recoil - luscious apparatus

There were also a couple of songs like this on Jah Wobble's Celtic Poets album.

Plus, of course, Tim Minchin's beat poems (which I guess are a bit different).
posted by mukade at 4:48 PM on September 25, 2014

Maybe not quite exactly the term you want, but I tend to put these into the category of "performance poetry" (which isn't all accompanied by music, but since the focus is on writing poetry that's meant to be performed, it will help you find more.

And you want everything by John Cooper Clarke. He's still at it, too.

(Seconding Kate Tempest. Her latest, Everybody Down, doesn't quite hang together plotwise as much as it should, but she is remarkably, amazingly talented.)
posted by darksong at 5:52 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Spoken songs! This is the term that mines the gold.

Two of my other favourites (my all-time top one is Gurb Song) are Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie, which has a sung chorus but very many spoken verses, and A Century of Elvis by Belle & Sebastian.

There are so many more I'd forgotten about before Googling: Parklife (sung chorus), William Shatner's entire(?) musical output, a good handful of Elvis songs, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron, Susan's House by Eels, lots of Tom Waits, Walk Away Renee by Billy Bragg, a beautiful section at the end of Shorley Wall by Ooberman, Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann, Never Went To Church by the Streets (quite long sung chorus), Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb, God is a DJ by Faithless, Breaking News by Half Man Half Biscuit, Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads, Thou Shalt Always Kill by Dan le Sac and Scroobius Pip, Melody by Serge Gainsbourg, Fitter Happier by Radiohead, and post-rock in the same vein as Migala: Meanwhile, Back in Communist Russia..., Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Explosions in the Sky.

I adore the albums made by poet Ian McMillan in collaboration with Luke Carver Goss and other folk musicians: Sharp Stories and Homing In.

There is something really wonderful about this trope. Often I think it's the way a recitation can keep going placidly in normal speech rhythm while the music builds behind. I also no-shit love the cheap trick of doing spoken-word renditions of ordinary songs to their own accompaniment. On a tour, my choir saw another choir (who I won't name!) do a lovely, sincere, moving piece which had verse spoken solo while the rest of the choir hummed. Of course, we went home and Shatnerized a load of Beatles songs.
posted by lokta at 9:55 AM on September 26, 2014

« Older Good English Walking Tours in Japan   |   70's Movies Set in LA? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.