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Getting a feel for the metre

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Getting a feel for the metre

Postby modus.irrealis » Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:56 am

Hi,

I've decided to take another crack at Homer now that I have a bit of free time but I want it to be more succesful this time around. I've got a decent grounding in the grammar, so I'm okay with (eventually) figuring out what a sentence means. My big problem was getting a sense for the rhythm of the poetry (basically, I can't tell why it is poetry) and it's something I'd really like to understand so I was hoping someone here had some tips for me on how to get this feeling for the metre.

I'm okay with lines where all heavy syllables are caused by long vowels, and I think my main problem is with figuring out how a closed syllable (especially one that ends in a stop) can be heavy. Is it simply convention and I just have to adjust my thinking, or is there a phonetic basis for all this?

I've listened to a few recordings but that hasn't really helped me with this either, so I'd appreciate any help people can give me, especially seeing how vague my questions are :).

Thymio
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Re: Getting a feel for the metre

Postby annis » Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:10 pm

modus.irrealis wrote:I'm okay with lines where all heavy syllables are caused by long vowels, and I think my main problem is with figuring out how a closed syllable (especially one that ends in a stop) can be heavy. Is it simply convention and I just have to adjust my thinking, or is there a phonetic basis for all this?


There is actually a phonetic basis for this.

I've listened to a few recordings but that hasn't really helped me with this either, so I'd appreciate any help people can give me, especially seeing how vague my questions are :).


Have you seen this one of mine: Reciting the Heroic Hexameter? It mixes discussion of the phonetics with links to sound files. If you've got Skype I can give pointers some time, too. Some of these matters are a lot easier to demonstrate than explain.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
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Re: Getting a feel for the metre

Postby cantator » Wed Jun 07, 2006 8:53 am

modus.irrealis wrote:
... My big problem was getting a sense for the rhythm of the poetry (basically, I can't tell why it is poetry) and it's something I'd really like to understand so I was hoping someone here had some tips for me on how to get this feeling for the metre.

I'm okay with lines where all heavy syllables are caused by long vowels, and I think my main problem is with figuring out how a closed syllable (especially one that ends in a stop) can be heavy. Is it simply convention and I just have to adjust my thinking, or is there a phonetic basis for all this?



As William points out there is indeed a phonetic basis. Quantitative meter is about durations (time), so when a "closed syllable" is marked as long it's because it is actually longer in sound, it takes longer to articulate than a syllable with only one short vowel sound. Consonants also lengthen the amount of time required for the syllable.

The problem for most readers lies in the fact that quantity is not a structural basis for the poetry with which we're most familiar, so getting the right feel for quantity takes some effort. My Latin teacher made me read newpaper items in meter, i.e. I'd superimpose a particular scansion on the prose text and try to read it in meter.

In the end you'll have to practice reading aloud and paying close attention to the actual sounding lengths as heard in good readings.

Btw, the subtleties afforded by quantitative structures are very hard to reproduce in English. Yes, of course we have quantity, but we do not organize our meters by it, and many quantitative effects are simply unlikely in a language such as English.

In Latin at least there is also a play of word accent against the rhythm established by the quantity. I'm not yet as facile as I'd like to be with the Homeric hexameter, but I can read it well enough to affirm that is is indeed poetry. :)

Just keep practicing and listening. You're cultivating a finer sense of time when you learn quantitative metrics, so a musical sense is good to have too, but just keep at it, you'll get it. It's all a matter of time. :)
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Re: Getting a feel for the metre

Postby modus.irrealis » Wed Jun 07, 2006 3:58 pm

annis wrote:Have you seen this one of mine: Reciting the Heroic Hexameter? It mixes discussion of the phonetics with links to sound files.


I have now, thanks, although now I see it's got a topic all of its own right below mine :), so I think I should take another look through the forum to see if there's anything else.

But your article actually adressed my point pretty directly, so thanks again. I'll try lingering on syllable final consonants as you suggest and see if that helps.

If you've got Skype I can give pointers some time, too. Some of these matters are a lot easier to demonstrate than explain.


I don't have it right now, but I really appreciate the offer.
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Re: Getting a feel for the metre

Postby modus.irrealis » Wed Jun 07, 2006 4:10 pm

cantator wrote:As William points out there is indeed a phonetic basis. Quantitative meter is about durations (time), so when a "closed syllable" is marked as long it's because it is actually longer in sound, it takes longer to articulate than a syllable with only one short vowel sound. Consonants also lengthen the amount of time required for the syllable.


I sort of do understand that in a theoretical sort of way, but without a feel for how some of the consonants that take up so little time (like stops) can be equivalent. I'm still kind of confused, however, why consonants at the start of a syllable don't count but those at the end do.

The problem for most readers lies in the fact that quantity is not a structural basis for the poetry with which we're most familiar, so getting the right feel for quantity takes some effort. My Latin teacher made me read newpaper items in meter, i.e. I'd superimpose a particular scansion on the prose text and try to read it in meter.

In the end you'll have to practice reading aloud and paying close attention to the actual sounding lengths as heard in good readings.

Btw, the subtleties afforded by quantitative structures are very hard to reproduce in English. Yes, of course we have quantity, but we do not organize our meters by it, and many quantitative effects are simply unlikely in a language such as English.


I think this is a major reason for my difficulties in that I have no instinct for quantity (and for a pitch accent among other things) because the languages I'm familiar with, primarly English, lack these features.

In Latin at least there is also a play of word accent against the rhythm established by the quantity. I'm not yet as facile as I'd like to be with the Homeric hexameter, but I can read it well enough to affirm that is is indeed poetry. :)

Just keep practicing and listening. You're cultivating a finer sense of time when you learn quantitative metrics, so a musical sense is good to have too, but just keep at it, you'll get it. It's all a matter of time. :)


Thanks for your comments. I will keep at it and try to figure it out, although hopefully a good musical sense is a sufficient, but not a necessary requirement. :)
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