From Orpheus to Bob Dylan: the Story of "Words and Music"

Walter Bernhart


Abstract: This paper tells a story of the relationship between “words and music” from the viewpoint of changing tendencies to either convergence or distance between the two forms of communication, depending on whether aesthetic dispositions and cultural conditions favour the merging or the drifting apart of both media. Thus, “fusionist” and “separatist” tendencies in the development of the arts are identified as manifested, in Western cultural history, by the impressive span of intermedial interaction extending from early mythical origins (Orpheus) to most recent manifestations (Bob Dylan). The focus is on the history of European musical theatre and the European song tradition. In the latter case, “interpretive” and “non-interpretive” songs are distinguished depending on whether the link between “words and music” is on the semantic or on the prosodic level. Contemporary pop songs, as represented by Dylan, are finally discussed in the context of the terminological framework presented and in view of the age-old tradition of singer-poets.

Keywords: word-image relations; contemporary pop songs; European tradition.

Resumo: O texto trata da história da relação entre “as palavras e a música” do ponto de vista das duas tendências: a convergência das duas formas de comunicação ou o distanciamento entre elas, segundo as disposições estéticas e condições culturais que favoreceram seja a fusão, seja o distanciamento dessas mídias. Assim, na história da cultura ocidental, as tendências “fusionistas” ou “separatistas” no desenvolvimento das artes são identificadas na extensão da interação intermidiática desde as origens míticas (Orfeu) até as manifestações mais recentes (Bob Dylan). O foco recai sobre a história do teatro musical europeu e a tradição da canção europeia. Nesta, as canções “interpretativas” e as “não interpretativas” se distinguem conforme o nível, semântico ou prosódico, da ligação entre “palavra e música”. Por fim, as canções populares contemporâneas, representadas por Dylan, são discutidas no contexto da estrutura terminológica apresentada e em vista da antiga tradição dos poetas-cantores.

Palavras-chave: relação palavra-imagem; canção popular contemporânea; tradição europeia.


word-image relations; contemporary pop songs; European tradition.

Texto completo:



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Direitos autorais 2017 Walter Bernhart

Aletria: Revista de Estudos de Literatura
ISSN 1679-3749 (impressa) / ISSN 2317-2096 (eletrônica)

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