I saw a youtube video called “The Music Box” where a guy, in search of an apartment, finds an empty loft where everything he steps on or hits or opens produces a sound. The leaser finds the guy randomly banging on boxes and pillars and thinks he’s crazy because he doesn’t hear the sounds himself. This reminded me of a quote I once read by Angela Monet that goes, “those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.” What I get from this is that creative expression can sometimes be construed as senseless or meaningless by people who aren’t open-minded enough to “see” or “hear” what the artist is trying to express. I wanted to incorporate this idea with running because people often ask me why I do it. I have my reasons and they have nothing to do with hearing music, but I thought it would be a fun way to write about it.
The main issue I had with writing this piece was trying to maintain my music metaphor without it sounding improvised or made up. For example, I liked the “bridge” part and the synesthetic lights because I thought it all fit well together. But I struggled to think of how I could connect a chorus or lyrics with running so the previous two sentences sounded more (for lack of a better word) bullsh*tty.
The tools that I tried to use were appealing to the senses and poetic devices. I wanted to make running sound or feel exciting being that the purpose of my essay is to portray running as something more than a mundane, physical act. This is something I’d like to work more on in my final draft because aside from the “resonating wind,” everything else served a poetic purpose. Since I’m still considering making this an audio recording, I focused on how my sentences sound and did some rhyming and alliteration.
My favorite sentence is “So I keep the kick drum kicking to the cadence of my steps and the high hats hitting to the huffs of my breath.” It rhymes, alliterates, and has a steady tempo(?) to it. It also set me up for the next sentence where I try to be witty and break up “alliteration” to “a-little-ration.”
The first question I have is whether or not the readers can relate to what I wrote. I would rather my readers think, “Hmm I’ve never thought of it that way,” than, “Oh so this is what goes through Hiroshi’s head when he runs.” My second question is whether or not I sound like I’m trying to make a connection that isn’t really there and if so, which parts seem the most forced or contrived?
The first thing I noticed about the piece was the rhyming. I noticed that I was reading it with a certain rhythm in my head, which made me go back and read it more than once. I like that the piece embodies the music that is evident throughout. It makes the piece more present, gives it a pulse.
I feel like you really paid attention to the sound of your writing. My favorite part of the piece was when “The sound of the wind resonates as the tension builds between the air and I, and as the pace quickens, the choir sings louder.” I think you mirror the tension of this sentence well with the use of commas. It makes you stop and stop and stop which then carries you into the guitar solo. I almost wish that next sentence had no comma, because it would I think give that fluid sense of relief after that escalating tension. That may just be a personal preference though.
At some parts, I kind of forgot about the running aspect of the piece and focused on the music. I think because there is so much rhythm and the beat is so present that you forget that music is simply a supplement the subject — running. Maybe try making that more present in the writing? I don’t know because I really like the form your words take to bring the music to a tangible place for the reader. But I do think your metaphor overpowers your subject a bit. King said we don’t always have to have a message though. That writing can just be a story, and I think you tell a vivid one. That being said, the one thing I would call out on is the use of certain words. It reminded me of Zinsser’s advice to avoid using words in our writing that we don’t usually use in speech. I know a lot of it has to do with the rhyming and the beat you were working to integrate into the piece, but maybe word choice is something to look at in your revision (maybe it will help with pushing the idea of running to the forefront and having it balance with the idea of music, rather than get muffled by it).
I picked on your alliteration on the very first read, and I thought it was an awesome way to really have your reader “hear” the piece rather than simply read it-you mention that you were playing with the idea of making the essay an audio project, and I think that your structure and use of poetic devices would make that transaction very easy.
Secondly, the moments where you start describing instruments and the coming together of a musical performance at the end of your second paragraph is very vivid writing. You mention the choir building as your pace quickens, and then bring it back again, parallel to the highpoint of your jogging session in a very crisp way, and I think that the fact that it is vivid in my head is due to the fact that you chose to have very direct setences and descriptions, so that’s something I thought you did really well.
There is one thing that I wasn’t very sure about at first, and that’s what it was that you were doing. (While I did pick up on the rhyming and alliteration, I didn’t actually get the idea that you were jogging until reading it carefully a few times over.)
I looked up the video you referenced as your inspiration for this essay, and I felt that if you involved some descriptions of the physical experience of jogging (where you are, who’s around, the weather, etc) and then juxtaposed those with the more poetic descriptions on the personal experience of jogging, you’d get more of the “magic” that the video suggests. (After all, the future-leaser in the video is the only one able to experience the “magic”, while the landlord is simply watching him tap around the loft. I feel that if you don’t give your readers some of the more mundane aspect of your jogging experience, you risk losing some of the impact your poetic descriptions might have.) I believe if you give the reader more of the physical and then directly attach a poetic description, they’d have a much clearer idea of the how much jogging means, and your metaphor of being a composer would have a bit more flesh.
One of my favorite string of sentences from your essay is: “Who wouldn’t wonder at the sight of a composer flailing his arms to a silent orchestra?” I think that at this part of the essay, you addressing your audience (indirectly) is the moment of clarity where you really give your metaphor a clear image, and it ties together all the elements and descriptions very nicely. I also like it because it touches upon the importance of movement, and how certain movement has precise meaning to some people (an orchestra) but not to others (an audience).
Your concise descriptions are one of the strongpoints for this essay, and I think if you were to add some more physical descriptions, make it a bit more clear that you’re jogging, and push into the direction of movement, then you’d make your essay much more tangible.
I have to say that my initial reaction to your piece was how it had a sense of rythm and poetry to it. You may want to write this out more like a poem instead of an essay, just a suggestion.
With that being said, I do feel like you should work more with commas, dashes, colons, and semi-colons. I feel that you should use these in your favor to make the piece flow better, similar to the beats of a drum. There were sentences like, “I’m not just a runner; I’m a producer. A producer and a performer. A performer moving through the motions of his concrete ensemble” could use some of these elements to make it sound less staccato.
With that being said my favorite sentence is, “So I keep the kick drum kicking to the cadence of my steps and the high hats hitting to the huffs of my breath” it feels like it’s a part of a song and this is why i suggested you make it a poem. It flows, it’s creative and it rhymes!
Q1: I can definitely relate to what you wrote. It’s something I think about a lot when i’m running or cycling through the city. Your heartbeat and feet rhythm is something that keeps you going and it’s a nice way to put this thought on paper.
Q2: You’ve got a connection there! I would really really enjoy this as a poem. Think about it!
I love your story of the inspiration for this piece. The underlying themes of your two inspirations are people who are hearing music where others can’t hear it. In these instances, music is literal and figurative. It’s the actual sounds that score and underscore our lives–the soundtracks we hear and imagine. And, more figuratively, it’s inspiration and motivation.
I put this out there because I’d like you to think about music and how you use it in this final project in both the more literal and figurative senses.
Right now, one question I have is why you talk about music here in so many mixed ways. The progression is choppy and unclear to me. You have the drums, and you seem to be the drummer, and then the song that’s in your head, where you’re the listener, and then you’re a rapper, then the wind becomes a chorus, which gives way to a guitar solo, and then you’re a conductor an orchestra. The progression is not always logical (the chorus into guitar solo, for instance) and in no case are the connections between the different kinds of music fleshed out. I wonder if you might profit from choosing one genre of music (classical, orchestra, jazz, rap, etc) and/or yourself as one role in the music (either player, or conductor, or listener). (You should definitely consider positioning yourself in one role in relation to the music.) Such conscious careful choices about type or music and your role in relation to the music would help provide instant coherence and would tighten the narrative.
Or, if you want to emphasize the cacophony, or the diversity of the inspiration, then you should make a point of that, you will need to do more work to explain how and why you’re jumping from different roles in the music and different types of music. Make sense of those leaps for your reader/listener.
More description of running, as Ricardo suggests, would help create the needed contrast between the mundacity most of us see or associate with running and the magic/inspiration you want to illustrate. Keep the idea of inspiration/motivation in mind as a key idea; I think many of us associate those qualities with music and thus you can let music symbolize them for your readers/listeners.
I keep saying readers/listeners because I hope you’re still considering creating an audio file out of this. Look at freesound.org, where you can get many different sounds of running (running on a hard surface, running through water, running up stairs), which might inspire you as you consider ways to illustrate the hard (boring?) work of running. And of course, there are many kinds of music you could get, too. You could really use sounds to build from running as boring (I hear a lot of people say they find running boring) to running as inspired. With audio, you’d have a lot of creative ways to play with building a sense of, as you say, the “magic,” of illustrating the music only one person can hear. Of course, you can do all this with the writing, but I really think that you have more interesting creative opportunities with audio here.
If you do it all with the writing, you need to think about how to write in more of a progression. Start quiet. Start with close description of the act of running. Maybe allow for some boredom (how to accomplish that without actually boring your readers is your challenge!). Then build the music. Let your language–the rhyming and alliteration, the careful attention to sentence structure as rhythm, the sounds of feet falling–create a sense of magic. If you keep it on the page, you’d need to develop it and make it longer.
I look forward to seeing what you do with this interesting piece! All of your writing projects have been very different this semester–different approaches, topics. I like that a lot about your approach to writing. You put it out there, find different angles and interests, and take some risks. I like that a lot about your work.
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