Remembering what you've never consciously ever heard before.

shnarkle

Well-known member
There's a sort of induction at the beginning of some of western civilizations most cherished works of literature, e.g. "Sing to me O Muse...etc." The trained ear begins to hear these rhythms after a while, even in normal every day conversations. One of the interesting things about Homer's Iliad and Odyssey is that Odysseus is conscious whereas everyone else isn't. He's the great tactician because he knows what he's doing, or rather he's conscious of what he's doing whereas everyone else is essentially an automaton taking commands whenever or from wherever they may come from.

Pink Floyd's classic Dark Side of the Moon album is a good example of how this works. How many people remember that classic line "I can't remember this part of the song"? If you don't remember it, or believe me, listen to that part of the song just after that line. it's where he starts laughing. Then rewind it back to just before it, and you should be able to consciously hear it.
 

Komodo

Well-known member
There's a sort of induction at the beginning of some of western civilizations most cherished works of literature, e.g. "Sing to me O Muse...etc." The trained ear begins to hear these rhythms after a while, even in normal every day conversations. One of the interesting things about Homer's Iliad and Odyssey is that Odysseus is conscious whereas everyone else isn't. He's the great tactician because he knows what he's doing, or rather he's conscious of what he's doing whereas everyone else is essentially an automaton taking commands whenever or from wherever they may come from. . . .
By "these rhythms" do you mean the sound patterns of the verse, or something more figurative? I don't see the connection, offhand, between the traditional invocation and the unique status of the protagonist.
 

shnarkle

Well-known member
By "these rhythms" do you mean the sound patterns of the verse,
Yes, the meter itself. Read any translation, and after a while, you'll begin to hear a whole line while you're waiting in line at the post office or the DMV.
I don't see the connection, offhand, between the traditional invocation and the unique status of the protagonist.
On a very real level, all invocations are an invitation to receive instructions. Homer writes them down, some walk up onto a stage to be hypnotized, others speak in tongues, some are institutionalized for listening to a Muse with nefarious plans. Odysseus literally tells his men to tie him to the mast so he won't be seduced into following their suggestions...

Homer is emphasizing the reality with that illustration. Odysseus is consciously aware of what's going on while everyone else is oblivious to how they're being manipulated.

Did you listen to the lyrics? Do you remember that part of the song?
 

Komodo

Well-known member
Yes, the meter itself. Read any translation, and after a while, you'll begin to hear a whole line while you're waiting in line at the post office or the DMV.

On a very real level, all invocations are an invitation to receive instructions. Homer writes them down, some walk up onto a stage to be hypnotized, others speak in tongues, some are institutionalized for listening to a Muse with nefarious plans. Odysseus literally tells his men to tie him to the mast so he won't be seduced into following their suggestions...

Homer is emphasizing the reality with that illustration. Odysseus is consciously aware of what's going on while everyone else is oblivious to how they're being manipulated.
To paraphrase, then, Homer is conscious of the hypnotic effect of his own verse rhythms on his listeners, and this becomes an area of fascination for him which works its way into his narrative, becoming a running theme about human susceptibility to instruction/seduction from charismatic beings like the gods and the sirens? Interesting thesis. But we're told that Odysseus survives some of the perils that destroy his shipmates because he does listen to the warnings of the gods, where they do not. How would that fit?

Did you listen to the lyrics? Do you remember that part of the song?
I have to confess I've never listened to it.
 

shnarkle

Well-known member
To paraphrase, then, Homer is conscious of the hypnotic effect of his own verse rhythms on his listeners, and this becomes an area of fascination for him which works its way into his narrative, becoming a running theme about human susceptibility to instruction/seduction from charismatic beings like the gods and the sirens? Interesting thesis.

Yes, that is an interesting thesis, but it's not mine. You're welcome to elaborate on it if you like. I'm always interested in new ideas. It does sound compelling. It isn't Homer that is fascinated. I am

What I'm pointing out is that people naturally produce these rhythms, (not everyone, just those who still have those connections to the Muse), and these rhythms can find their way into coherent speech. There are also those who "speak in tongues", but with them, the rhythms are just articulated with gibberish which I don't find all that interesting to begin with.
When it is with coherent speech is when I become interested. I have listened to people ramble on for hours in heroic verse, and all of it is brand new. They aren't quoting anyone from memory. They are just spontaneously producing it as fast as they can talk. They are being manipulated by the Muse. In most cases, they're also certifiably insane, or on extremely strong psychotropic substances. Some are musicians like Roy Harper, or Pink Floyd's Sid Barrett.

I am also pointing out that if one listens to it long enough, one can develop the ability to hear it whenever someone else or even oneself begins to rattle off a few lines in Heroic verse spontaneously. Sometimes there are even a few end rhymes included. Perhaps the process itself induces the phenomenon.

It may also be a way to remember the poem itself. Originally, it was publicly recited completely from memory.
But we're told that Odysseus survives some of the perils that destroy his shipmates because he does listen to the warnings of the gods, where they do not. How would that fit?

Good point. Those who are conscious have a choice while those who aren't don't.
I have to confess I've never listened to it.
The whole album is well worth the time.

Someone linked it to the Wizard of Oz, and turned it into one huge music video. The interesting thing is that it seems like the sound track was made for that movie.

(318) 'The Dark Side of Oz' - YouTube
 

Komodo

Well-known member
Yes, that is an interesting thesis, but it's not mine. You're welcome to elaborate on it if you like. I'm always interested in new ideas. It does sound compelling. It isn't Homer that is fascinated. I am.
I'm not sure I'm up to the task of elaboration, unfortunately.

What I'm pointing out is that people naturally produce these rhythms, (not everyone, just those who still have those connections to the Muse), and these rhythms can find their way into coherent speech. There are also those who "speak in tongues", but with them, the rhythms are just articulated with gibberish which I don't find all that interesting to begin with.
When it is with coherent speech is when I become interested. I have listened to people ramble on for hours in heroic verse, and all of it is brand new. They aren't quoting anyone from memory. They are just spontaneously producing it as fast as they can talk. They are being manipulated by the Muse. In most cases, they're also certifiably insane, or on extremely strong psychotropic substances. Some are musicians like Roy Harper, or Pink Floyd's Sid Barrett.
It's a phenomenon which has been studied quite a bit, especially by scholars trying to understand how the Homeric epics were composed, and there are still people who improvise songs in the "Homeric" style who are not at all insane. Here's one study: http://www.panoreon.gr/files/items/9/93/daskaloyannis-corrected.pdf

If you can find a copy of Robert Fagles' translation of the Iliad, the introduction also has a lot of material about how oral poetry/song works, with references for further reading. You might find it interesting.
 
It seems to me that this phenomenon is partly due to the concept of a "viral" work. Have you ever caught yourself with a song spinning endlessly in your head, is it worth hearing it once? While you listen to other songs, listen and they are not remembered. You remember the general motive, but you can't remember the text.
 

shnarkle

Well-known member
It seems to me that this phenomenon is partly due to the concept of a "viral" work. Have you ever caught yourself with a song spinning endlessly in your head, is it worth hearing it once? While you listen to other songs, listen and they are not remembered. You remember the general motive, but you can't remember the text.
When I was a kid, I used to intentionally hum the theme songs from sit coms like I Dream of Jeannie, The Munsters, Gilligan's Island, and other popular programs like CHiPs, Dallas, the Dukes of Hazzard, but I would also hum tunes that were incredibly annoying. I only did this around people, and a week later, I could run into them, and they would be enraged at me for planting that tune in their head.

One of my favorites was "Skyrockets in flight, afternoon delight, aaaaafternoon delight" The catchier the tune the more likely it was to stick in someone's head. Those one hit wonders that rocketed to the top of the Billboard charts only to sink into oblivion six months later are the best.

As a side note, just about everything recorded from the late 60's to the early 80's was performed by the same sessions group in Los Angeles including just about all those theme songs from tv. They were in high demand because they could turn a good song into a top 10 smash hit. They made everyone they worked for rich while they kept on collecting sessions work wages. They had that "viral" work telling them that they weren't worth anything more than what they were making.
 
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