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This review is taken from PN Review 46, Volume 12 Number 2, November - December 1985.

Richard Luckett THE LAST TROUBADOUR? Ezra Pound and Music


The reconstructions of Troubadour songs by Pound and Walter Rummel will be performed by the King's Consort at the Cambridge Festival. There will also be a performance of Pound's own opera, Le Testament de François Villon.


In 1911 Pound wrote that 'After squandering a good deal of time and concentration on the question of the relation of poetry and music, it seems to me not only futile, but very nearly impossible, to lay down any principles whatever for the regulation of their conjunctions'. It was not a self-admonishment that he was able to heed: for the next fifty years the problem of motz el son was to continue to preoccupy him, both as critic and creator. So, also, was the problem of the nature of music itself, and in particlar the question of the description and function of rhythm, the common factor that must somehow relate music and poetry.

That this problem is singularly intractable is indicated by Pound's allusion, in the same 1911 article, to Aristotle. What Pound nowhere explicitly says, but had evidently observed, is that in the Poetics, Aristotle both makes rhythm the basis of mimesis in all the arts, and at the same time resolutely refrains from any elaboration of this striking proposition. Pound could not curb his impulse to explore it further, and, characteristically, offered his explorations as explanations, though these explanations, amongst them the Treatise on Harmony, usually involve a comic cancelling-out of the speculations ...


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