When Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature was announced last week, I posed the question (and it was just a question, not a criticism) whether music is in fact a subset of literature. What I did not expect were the passionate responses I received regarding music and literature in general, and Dylan in particular:
ths s a duh moment
lyric poetry s th most ancient
orality n theater
musicality n verse
bob’s th best
— jt jackson (@gnognot) October 13, 2016
@greatdkwonder Yes. Dylan’s songs were pieces of art, eloquent, poignant and straightforward.
— Orion Transmissions (@parvatidevi) October 13, 2016
Such responses inspired me to reflect a bit, not only on the place of songwriting within the arts but also on my relative ignorance of Bob Dylan’s larger body of work, beyond the usual few songs with which nearly everyone is familiar.
I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, well after the height of Dylan’s popularity and impact. My childhood was disco, not folk; pop, not protest. Because my parents’ musical tastes predated the 1960s (and, let’s admit it, the 1950s – they were firm devotees of the big band era), it was not until adulthood that I came to encounter and appreciate the music of the era.
@greatdkwonder I opine that it is more difficult to change the direction of a man’s life in a 3.5 minute poem put to music than to novel
— Bob Kirby (@rekjr111) October 13, 2016
This Twitter user’s comments rightly reminded me of the potential power that song possesses, that is all its own and doesn’t require a printed page to convey. A well-crafted song can bring joy, sorrow, and even a paradigm shift in one’s thinking, in just a few short minutes. Words and melody together can be a potent force for change, as I am now coming to appreciate in Dylan’s work.
I posed a question and was schooled. That conversation has given me not only great food for thought but a whole new area of music to explore. I am humbly grateful – and I look forward to what the Twitterverse has yet to teach.