The Pulse

Interaction of music, literature/art

Ashenafi Zedebub

It was only a few weeks before his death that Heinrich von Kleist informed Marie von Kleist, by letter, of “all sorts of ill-feelings.”

The German poet went on to say: “in this case I may perhaps let the art rest for a year or more and shall occupy myself with nothing, but music.”

It is as well worth noting what Kleist had to say with regard to poetry. Wrote he: “…I think the most important information on poetry is included in bass – lowest part in music.”

About twenty years later the famous composer Robert Schumann in his letter to Simonine de Sire said: “Don’t you know Jean Paul, our great writer? I learned more counter-points from him than I had been taught by music professor.” According to researchers’ suggestions, the Austrian composer Arnold Schoeneberg had also “urged” his fellow students to read Shakespeare in lieu of the score.

They might have been astonished or could possibly have the feeling of pleasure, satisfaction and respect, or – as some authorities noted – “feeling of disappointment and ill-will or envy” might be the cause. But whatever the reason is, poets have time and again glanced at the sister art. They even went further to and said that in the “good old days” poets happened to be singers at the same time.

Nowadays, such examples are usually mentioned and such remarks quoted as often as the question of “music-literature/art connection” is raised and whenever any discussion as regards “music, literature/art interaction” is held. Further, it is worth mentioning that “too much” of interaction has been understood, as one writer put it.

As Professor Steven Paul Scher of New Hampshire University in the US indicated, the co-relation between literature and music can, one simply say, “numberless.” Taking this point into consideration, he pointed out that the “inter-disciplinary comparison, was, until a short time, considered as illegitimate border zone.” The scholar, explaining facts of the case, said that there were only hand full professionals who could have acquired competence for both music and literature/art.

Poets and essayists, lecturers and teachers, composers and dramatists had been busy with “counter points, interaction, co-relation, connection” and so forth. The “music-literature/art- connection” or “interaction” as well as the” Kleistical  Poetry ” are, among others , still to be considered as ” main points” as far as this unique issue is concerned. Researches have been carried out, books were published and open discussions were widely held around the industrialized world.

“The music of Poetry “by the famous essayist T.S.Eliot, is worth noting. Also others like “Language as Music in Music” and “Leading Motives” by Wagner and Mann are of great significance whenever “Music-Literature-Connection/Interaction” comes as a talking point.

When I read this research paper, I happened to go back several years and recall my memory, when I had the honor to talk with the distinguished artist, my good friend, the late Gebre-Kristos Desta.  This famous person known for his abstract and – at times – non-abstract paintings was also a great poet. I remember the good time we had together in Germany and also after we came back to our homeland and, in particular, the one painting of his “Hot Summer” together with the poetry, which he read out to me as we sat in my apartment. Yes,” hot summer!” – That was really a dream for us at that time to talk about hot summer in mid-winter of Europe when everything was at freezing point.

Any way, I shared my experience and what about yours?


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