Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Republic of Sound

I have an office that shares a wall with the vending machine room. During breaks I can hear the Hispanic employees conversing. I’m like that Platonic caveman in a way. Not only can’t I hear the talk properly since the wall distorts sound in a low way, but the speech is completely unintelligible to me in the first place. But there is a shadow that I hear moving across my understanding, and that is the spirit of intonation.
For it is a fundamental fact that certain forms depend on the sound;—e.g., note the various tones of irony, acquiescence, doubt, etc. in the farmer’s “I guess so.” And the great problem is, can you get these tones down on paper? How do you tell the tone? By the context, by the animated spirit of the living voice.
Frost continues his explanation in a short explication of the initial lines of his poem, The Pasture:
I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
[light, informing tone]
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
[“only” tone reservation]
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
[supplementary, possibility]
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.
[free tone, assuring][afterthought, inviting]

No comments: