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Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-09, 07:13 PM
Yesterday I was watching The Book Show (hosted by Mariella Frostrup). One of the guests was a man (I didn't catch his name) from the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company (http://www.hiphopshakespeare.com/site/) whose thesis was that the relationship between rap and Shakespeare is very strong.

He pointed out that Shakespeare's audience was mostly illiterate, but Shakespeare's words spoke to them, in much the same way that rappers connect with the less privileged in our society.

He talked about the rhythm of Shakepeare's poetry and prose, and likened it to the dramatic rhythms of rap, concluding that if Shakespeare were alive today, he would be a rapper.

He argued that the likes of Andrew Motion, who dismisses rap out of hand, doesn't know what he's talking about, and is judging a whole genre by a small number of its worst examples.

To support his thesis, he leads workshops in which he gets people to appreciate Shakespeare's work by treating it as rap. And in order to pull the rug out from under the elitists who sneer at his views, he reads a mixture of quotations from Shakespeare and various rappers and asks them to guess who wrote them. Invariably they get some or all wrong, which makes them think again.

* * *

I'm... not convinced. At all.

I don't actively seek out rap - indeed, I often switch the radio off when I hear it, but, like most people, I am exposed to it. The sort of people who impose their musical tastes on other people (on trains, for instance) are likely to be playing rap (if it's not heavy metal). Anyone listening out for new music is likely to hear at least parts of rap songs. In short, anybody who expresses an opinion about rap is probably expressing an informed opinion, and the fact that they might have been Poet Laureate does not lessen this.

As for this man's quotation schtick, well, the reasons most people aren't sure if his chosen lines are Shakespeare or rap are rather clear. The fact that he does choose them suggests he's going to choose lines that don't have obvious clues, such as references to modern technology; similarly, he's not going to choose the Bard's lines that everybody knows. But most crucially, Shakespeare's lines tend to work in context. When his work causes your heart to flutter or your toes to curl or your throat to catch, it's rarely due to a single line heard in isolation.

There are levels of meaning and feeling with Shakespeare's work. Even when I first encountered his work at about 14, and was only understanding a fraction of it, I was aware of the depth. I've never been aware of any real depth in rap, not even in Eminem's (which I quite like). Similarly, when rappers try to "do" Romeo and Juliet as rap, it comes across as horrible forced.

Anyone agree? Disagree?

billslugg
2012-Jun-09, 07:35 PM
The key difference between the illiterates that listened to Shakespeare and the illiterates who sing rap is that the modern version is illiterate by choice, as a method of disrespecting "the man" whom they blame for all their failings.

Perikles
2012-Jun-09, 07:40 PM
He pointed out that Shakespeare's audience was mostly illiterate, but Shakespeare's words spoke to them, in much the same way that rappers connect with the less privileged in our society.I can't see what illiteracy has to do with literary appreciation in Elizabethan times. Seeing that Shakespeare was to be seen and heard, an ability to read was irrelevant. The idea that rap could be in the same league as Shakespeare is to me quite ridiculous.

danscope
2012-Jun-09, 07:59 PM
That comparison would appear at least naive. But not incongruous with someone infatuated with the ...uh..merits of Rap.
Different things for different people.

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-09, 08:03 PM
I can't see what illiteracy has to do with literary appreciation in Elizabethan times. Seeing that Shakespeare was to be seen and heard, an ability to read was irrelevant.

Yes, it's like saying Beethoven wrote music for people who couldn't read or write music.

Strange
2012-Jun-09, 08:05 PM
I am not a huge fan of Shakespeare (I find too much of the language impenetrable) but am a huge fan of rap (I think it is the highest form that pop has achieved [just to be controversial :)]). However, I would still say that the claim that rap (generically) is as good as Shakespeare is rather over-stating the case.

However, as with things like musical or modern-English versions of Shakespeare, anything that gets more people to take a look sounds like a good idea to me.

Perikles
2012-Jun-09, 08:20 PM
I was taught that Shakespeare wrote for a very mixed audience, so his technique was to provide material which could be appreciated on several levels of intellect and social standing. His tragedies always interweave tragic elements with bawdy lowlife scenes. The latter were usually a light relief for those who found the tragedy too heavy, but also contained subtle humour, puns and contemporary references, most of which is probably lost on todays audience. It is said that you can identify a literary geek because he laughs at Shakespeares jokes.

Given a multi-layer interpretation, perhaps there is one layer which is equivalent to rap, but if so, it's a superficial one.

Gillianren
2012-Jun-09, 08:24 PM
Right. The groundlings may have been his main audience at the Globe, but when he was doing performances at court, those definitely weren't in front of audiences of the mainly illiterate. It is perhaps ironic that one of the biggest "clues" that the man called William Shakespeare didn't write those plays is that they're too educated for what we know of him, given a claim that he was "obviously" writing for illiterates.

captain swoop
2012-Jun-09, 08:43 PM
To my mind anything is better than Shakespeare.

Nicolas
2012-Jun-09, 08:49 PM
They see me rollin'
They hatin'

Scene: King Henry's cavalery on its way to the invasion of Harfleur
Henry V: Act 3: Prologue
William Shakespeare

Romanus
2012-Jun-09, 09:17 PM
1.) Apples and oranges, not least because one is drama and one isn't.

2.) Music is art, and just as no one can agree on what constitutes art, no one can agree on what constitutes music. I think Skrillex and Nicki Minaj are awful, yet today's kids can't get enough of them; on the other end of the spectrum, the modernist composers (Mahler, Schoenberg, Cage, et al.) took real pride in the fact that the hoi polloi disdained their music. Sure, Eminem is no Mahler, but neither he nor his fans care that that the musicology set think his work is worse than garbage.

3.) What many people fail to realize about not just rap, but any music genre, is that your identity is often tied into the music you like. Someone who only listens to classical music is partially defined by that music; that is, one aspect of who they are is, "I am a classical music lover." The youth of yesteryear used rock to define themselves as different from their parents; "My parents like Glenn Miller; I like The Beatles." In other words, if you don't get a style of music, don't sweat it, because that music is literally not you.

Gillianren
2012-Jun-09, 11:22 PM
To my mind anything is better than Shakespeare.

If I thought you actually believed that, I would feel very sorry for you. As it is, I'm sure you can list quite a lot of things that, yes, even you think are worse than Shakespeare. I am also inclined to believe that you've been taught it wrong. Do you know any of the plays other than Romeo and Juliet? Have you read any of the poetry?

HenrikOlsen
2012-Jun-09, 11:51 PM
Sure, Eminem is no Mahler, but neither he nor his fans care that that the musicology set think his work is worse than garbage.
I consider his main worth is as a poet rather than his music.

And I do incidentally like quite a lot (not all) of Shakespeare's works and consider the way so many idioms are derived from (badly mangled) snippets of his works a testament to the power of his writing.

Gillianren
2012-Jun-10, 05:57 AM
My roommate and I are agreed that the best rap song ever written, whatever it is, is probably better than Titus Andronicus. But heck, we shouldn't have the conversation about what's equivalent until rap has been around a few hundred years. A lot of things which were "as good as Shakespeare" have faded from the common memory long since.

Perikles
2012-Jun-10, 07:24 AM
My roommate and I are agreed that the best rap song ever written, whatever it is, is probably better than Titus Andronicus.Yes, and you are of course comparing the best of one genre with the worst of another. The problem with the best known artists is that everything they have ever written is studied, instead of their really inspired works. So a bad experience with one of the more turgid Shakespeare plays will put anybody off. But I can't think how anybody could not be moved by, say, the Twelve Night film by Trevor Nunn, it's just not possible. And nobody gets killed.

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-10, 07:42 AM
1.) Apples and oranges, not least because one is drama and one isn't.

Some is. At least one Eminem track springs to mind.


2.) Music is art, and just as no one can agree on what constitutes art, no one can agree on what constitutes music.

I'm not sure I agree with this premise. It's generally agreed that rhythm, melody and so on are elements of music. Sure, we might debate over what makes a good mix of elements, and whether all the elements are essential. (John Cage's 4'33" has duration and nothing else, but the question of whether this defines the limits of music is a question of limited interest.) But when somebody says, "That's not music!" it's generally recognised as meaning, "The conception and/or execution of that work is so poor that I would not include it in my canon."


3.) What many people fail to realize about not just rap, but any music genre, is that your identity is often tied into the music you like. Someone who only listens to classical music is partially defined by that music; that is, one aspect of who they are is, "I am a classical music lover." The youth of yesteryear used rock to define themselves as different from their parents; "My parents like Glenn Miller; I like The Beatles." In other words, if you don't get a style of music, don't sweat it, because that music is literally not you.

I don't think this happens anywhere near as much as is sometimes supposed. On warm days when I'm crossing the Guildhall Square in Portsmouth, I find myself smiling as I see people at least 20 years younger than me wearing Joy Division or The Cure t-shirts, and in 2007 when I was working in a college, my 16-19 year old students were exchanging MP3s of The Smiths. Other young people were listening to music from my parents' time. I think it's more a case of picking and choosing the stuff they like (with a large range of eras to choose from and the chance to sample before they buy) and less about rebelling, though I expect this happens too.

Gillianren
2012-Jun-10, 06:39 PM
Yes, and you are of course comparing the best of one genre with the worst of another. The problem with the best known artists is that everything they have ever written is studied, instead of their really inspired works. So a bad experience with one of the more turgid Shakespeare plays will put anybody off. But I can't think how anybody could not be moved by, say, the Twelve Night film by Trevor Nunn, it's just not possible. And nobody gets killed.

Oh, sure--Twelfth Night is probably my favourite of the comedies. I've been saying for some time, though, that you can tell a real Shakespeare lover by the way they're able to acknowledge that not all of his work was great while still saying that he was one of the greatest writers of whom we have record.

potoole
2012-Jun-11, 12:38 AM
Rap is to music as etch-a-sketch is to art.
Some Biker

HenrikOlsen
2012-Jun-11, 06:04 AM
I don't think this happens anywhere near as much as is sometimes supposed. On warm days when I'm crossing the Guildhall Square in Portsmouth, I find myself smiling as I see people at least 20 years younger than me wearing Joy Division or The Cure t-shirts, and in 2007 when I was working in a college, my 16-19 year old students were exchanging MP3s of The Smiths. Other young people were listening to music from my parents' time. I think it's more a case of picking and choosing the stuff they like (with a large range of eras to choose from and the chance to sample before they buy) and less about rebelling, though I expect this happens too.
I know of several teens who went giddy when they heard The Cure is going to play at the Roskilde Festival this summer.

HenrikOlsen
2012-Jun-11, 06:05 AM
Rap is to music as etch-a-sketch is to art.
Some Biker
That biker is to critique as a lump of mud is to a hammer.

Cougar
2012-Jun-11, 01:02 PM
Rap is to music as etch-a-sketch is to art.

That expresses my view of it pretty well. Rhythmic talking? Excessive rhyming? Just like with facebook, the populace has been hoodwinked.

Nicolas
2012-Jun-11, 01:05 PM
Some reactions remind me of Bill Cosby discussing rap in the Simpsons.

I'm no fan of rap music at all, but it's not like it doesn't require creativity and musicality to create a good rap or hiphop song/lyrics.

swampyankee
2012-Jun-11, 02:40 PM
Rap has its roots in improvisational oral poetry (the Rap that is played on the radio is, like most music devoted to making money for record labels, junk), which has very deep roots. So does deliberately written drama, as anybody who has heard of Antigone realizes (I liked that play, which we read when I was in eighth grade, although my liking may be less related to its literary merits than to being near the girl reading Ismene's part).

In any case, rap is a genre. Shakespeare was a practitioner of a different genre. Even if "Shakespeare" was being used as shorthand for "the works of Shakespeare," comparing an entire genre with the works of a single practitioner is meaningless. Making a comparison between, say, Gil Scott Heron's works and Shakespeare's works may be sensible, but all of rap vs all of Shakespeare's output? I think not.

So, is "rap better than Shakespeare?" mu.

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-11, 02:56 PM
Some reactions remind me of Bill Cosby discussing rap in the Simpsons.

That doesn't make it wrong. I know you're not saying that, but even the uninformed are right sometimes, and as I said in my OP, non-fans are a lot more informed than fans seem to think. They can't avoid being informed.


I'm no fan of rap music at all, but it's not like it doesn't require creativity and musicality to create a good rap or hiphop song/lyrics.

This is possibly the crux of the matter. It takes a very little amount of creativity. It's not difficult to rhyme, especially if you twist words to fit. (I'm quite pleased with what I managed to rhyme "Galapagos" with in my Darwin Rap in the Amazing Untrue Records thread, although I self-censored it.)

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-11, 03:02 PM
In any case, rap is a genre. Shakespeare was a practitioner of a different genre. Even if "Shakespeare" was being used as shorthand for "the works of Shakespeare," comparing an entire genre with the works of a single practitioner is meaningless. Making a comparison between, say, Gil Scott Heron's works and Shakespeare's works may be sensible, but all of rap vs all of Shakespeare's output? I think not.

Shakespeare often is regarded as a one-man genre, at least in a marketing context. If you buy spoken word CDs from the BBC, for instance, they include Crime & Thrillers, Science Fiction & Fantasy, and Shakespeare. (IIRC. Actually I'll have to check that when I get home.)

NEOWatcher
2012-Jun-11, 03:26 PM
Were there vast differences of taste in Shakespeare's time?

Today, (in general) rappers seem to dislike classical and people who enjoy the classics can't stand rap.

I'm not sure what genre of music in today's world could be equated to something of general appeal.

Cougar
2012-Jun-11, 04:45 PM
I'm no fan of rap music at all, but it's not like it doesn't require creativity and musicality to create a good rap or hiphop song/lyrics.

This is possibly the crux of the matter. It takes a very little amount of creativity. It's not difficult to rhyme, especially if you twist words to fit.
As a musician and recording artist, I would add that it appears to me to take a very little amount of musicality as well.

Nicolas
2012-Jun-11, 05:17 PM
As a musician and recording artist, I would add that it appears to me that:

-with very very little creativity and musicality you can make a bad to passable rap record
-with little creativity and basic musicality you can make middle of the road rap music
-only with an artist's creativity and musicality you make great rap/hiphop

So my feeling about this is that you get further with less talent in rap, but to reach a high level still requires a lot of talent. There are other arts where it takes a lot more talent to create anything that doesn't make your ears/eyes/brain bleed, but I don't think that the highest achievements in rap/hiphop can be done with any less talent than any other art. A different kind of talent maybe, but still genuine talent.

Maybe you could compare it a bit with learning to play the piano compared to learning to play the violin. With no talent and no musicallity you can still learn to play something passable on the piano, while on the violin you'll only please cats in springtime if you have no talent. However, to play really great on the piano requires similar talent as playing really great on violin.

I'm not an expert in rap & hiphop, but as said by others also as a non-fan you cannot avoid being informed about it. And when I hear different hiphop songs, I cannot help noticing that some are made with loads more talent than others. Dr Dre's beats really are more musical than most others. The lyrics of a song like Stan are far above the average in the genre, as is the way he brings them. I like the way good rappers play with words (not hopelessly forcing words into rhyming though). Not just the puns, also the little things. Compact and verbally elegant ways (yes, discussing rap here, bear with me) of describing stuff. Most of it I can't quote here, but that's another discussion. Also when looking at Belgian hiphop groups there's one that stands waaaay above the others in quality, the rest just surfing along on the success of the genre, only being able to make playable records thanks to its low entry level.

captain swoop
2012-Jun-11, 07:05 PM
If I thought you actually believed that, I would feel very sorry for you. As it is, I'm sure you can list quite a lot of things that, yes, even you think are worse than Shakespeare. I am also inclined to believe that you've been taught it wrong. Do you know any of the plays other than Romeo and Juliet? Have you read any of the poetry?

I do think that. I have never understood the popularity. I have endured Macbeth, Hamlet, Midsummer Nights Dream and the Tempest at various venues over the years.

As for the Poetry, Spare me please. Give me John Donne any time.

swampyankee
2012-Jun-11, 08:47 PM
Were there vast differences of taste in Shakespeare's time?

Today, (in general) rappers seem to dislike classical and people who enjoy the classics can't stand rap.

I'm not sure what genre of music in today's world could be equated to something of general appeal.

I'm sure there were: not everybody who could afford to do so and lived in London would go to see a Shakespeare play, and there was, at least in England, a large number of people for whom such frivolities as entertainment were anathema (see: Oliver Cromwell). I don't think there ever was a genre of music or literature with universal appeal in any given social group, and I seriously doubt there ever will be. I don't like rap, I don't like heavy metal, and I don't like punk, although I recognize that all have talented practitioners.

I also think that trying to classify past artists into current genres is pointless: would Shakespeare be today's Athol Fugard or Neil Simon? Meaningless question.

Gillianren
2012-Jun-12, 12:39 AM
I do think that. I have never understood the popularity. I have endured Macbeth, Hamlet, Midsummer Nights Dream and the Tempest at various venues over the years.

Repeat, I don't believe you. Are you saying that you think Shakespeare is worse than Uwe Boll? Ed Wood? The guy who made Manos: The Hands of Fate? Shakespeare is worse than teenagers with bad voices performing their own songs on YouTube? There is no writer/artist that you can think of who is worse?


As for the Poetry, Spare me please. Give me John Donne any time.

And I'm not trying to disparage Donne, who was also a fine writer. However, much of what is good about Donne is also present in Shakespeare.

Cougar
2012-Jun-12, 01:14 AM
...Dr Dre's beats really are more musical than most others. The lyrics of a song like Stan are far above the average in the genre, as is the way he brings them. I like the way good rappers play with words (not hopelessly forcing words into rhyming though). Not just the puns, also the little things. Compact and verbally elegant ways (yes, discussing rap here, bear with me) of describing stuff.

Oh, I guess I can see that. :)

Perikles
2012-Jun-12, 06:49 AM
I have endured Macbeth, Hamlet, Midsummer Nights Dream and the Tempest at various venues over the years..That's probably the correct verb in part. Hamlet is really hard work, very long and very depressing, and the last two on their own are enough to put anybody off theatre altogether (just my view). These are a really unfortunate introduction to Shakespeare. Also, I'm amazed at the difference in effect between a poorly acted or presented play, and an inspired performance. Elizabethan audiences (who had no alternative fantasy outlets which we have in abundance today) must have been far more capable of suspending disbelief than we are.

For me, this thread raises the question which I find fascinating. In an age of scientific advancement and almost universal literacy in 'advanced' countries, whether these tangible facts have enabled people in general to progress in the appreciation of art forms, particulary literature. There seems to be a general assumption of present-day superiority in everything, based on spectacular progress in some areas. So there is a natural assumption that we can appreciate Shakespeare better than his contemporary audience could. Yet anybody reading, say, Homer or Virgil might think there has been no progress at all.

HenrikOlsen
2012-Jun-12, 10:52 AM
An interesting thing is that I found A Midsummer Nights Dream hilarious when I read it a couple of decades ago and The Tempest quite good too.

I think a very large part of the different impressions is that I wasn't forced to do it in school but could to it for fun.

Strange
2012-Jun-12, 11:03 AM
As a musician and recording artist, I would add that it appears to me that:

-with very very little creativity and musicality you can make a bad to passable rap record
-with little creativity and basic musicality you can make middle of the road rap music
-only with an artist's creativity and musicality you make great rap/hiphop


Is that any different from any other genre? Or any other medium, for that matter. I'm reminded of Sturgeon's law.

ETA: sorry, just read your post more carefully. That seems to be pretty much the point you were making.

Strange
2012-Jun-12, 11:05 AM
Today, (in general) rappers seem to dislike classical and people who enjoy the classics can't stand rap.

I'm a fan of both. There have been quite a few rap records that have sampled classical music so they are not completely alien forms.

Nicolas
2012-Jun-12, 11:37 AM
In fact nowhere do I hear as many classical music references as in rap/hiphop. Totally butchered references, but anyway.

captain swoop
2012-Jun-12, 06:12 PM
Plan B is the nearest I get to rap although I like some of the 'Old School' stuff like Grand Master Flash and such.

peteshimmon
2012-Jun-12, 06:27 PM
I tend to think rap is an angry chanting
of various greivances, surely not to be
called music which is a noble concept.
Hopefully the reasons for complaints has
greatly subsided but I dont really know.

Years ago another type of sound was called
reggae. Gave it a miss. Then some blighter
did Elizabethan Serenade in it. And that
tune wins hands down. So I have one example
of it on a single somewhere.

Nicolas
2012-Jun-12, 06:42 PM
Lots of rap doesn't deal with greivances. Au contraire. Ego boasting is a very popular subject.

And lots of classical music is very angry, overflowing with greivances, however noble you might think it would be. Never mind Shakespeare, where death, jealousy and the like often are not far away.

Gillianren
2012-Jun-12, 06:55 PM
An interesting thing is that I found A Midsummer Nights Dream hilarious when I read it a couple of decades ago and The Tempest quite good too.

I think a very large part of the different impressions is that I wasn't forced to do it in school but could to it for fun.

Actually, if I remember correctly, my own first exposure to A Midsummer Night's Dream was when the honours program at one of the local high schools put on a performance of it and we were "forced" to go. It was a field trip with my perhaps fourth grade class. They did A Christmas Carol, too, I think. I still don't like Dickens, but that was a fine production.

Perikles
2012-Jun-12, 07:41 PM
They did A Christmas Carol, too, I think. I still don't like Dickens, but that was a fine production.The same problem as with Shakespeare. There are maybe (only) half a dozen Dickens novels which are superb, but that one is not amongst them. Try Bleak House, or Martin Chuzzlewit or Dombey and Son.

Gillianren
2012-Jun-12, 08:23 PM
I like A Tale of Two Cities quite a lot and have never really been able to get through any of his other work. While there are a few very good lines (including, as it happens, one in A Christmas Carol), I generally do not care for his writing style. I still wouldn't say it's anything like the worst writing ever, though, because I read Twilight!

mike alexander
2012-Jun-13, 12:17 AM
In a possibly apocryphal quote, someone was supposed to have asked Chou en Lai what he thought of the French Revolution. He responded, "It's too soon to tell."

Ask me again in a hundred years or so.

Perikles
2012-Jun-13, 06:10 AM
I like A Tale of Two Cities quite a lot and have never really been able to get through any of his other work.My wife and I agree that half a dozen of his works are inspirational, but we disagree on which half dozen. We agree on four, but where I have A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations (despite the flawed ending), she declares them to be minor works. Perhaps this shows that we are too judgmental, or neither of us knows what we are talking about. Or she has no taste. :D

potoole
2012-Jun-13, 07:11 AM
Strange
I am not a huge fan of Shakespeare (I find too much of the language impenetrable) but am a huge fan of rap (I think it is the highest form that pop has achieved [just to be controversial]). However, I would still say that the claim that rap (generically) is as good as Shakespeare is rather over-stating the case.

My underlining.

"Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future" (old rock song)

So does human culture. It keeps on slipping, regressing, recessing, relapseing. "Rap" is a harbinger of worse entertainment to come.

"That is all"

Nicolas
2012-Jun-13, 07:35 AM
"Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future" (old rock song)
With that amount of Roland Space Echo abuse, I would put it firmly under dub rather than rock (though it is often classified as rock), but anyway.

@potoole: I disagree that there is a general trend towards lesser entertainment. Its not like there were no questionable forms of entertainment in the past. And there still is high-level entertainment now, whatever that may be.

potoole
2012-Jun-13, 07:53 AM
With that amount of Roland Space Echo abuse, I would put it firmly under dub rather than rock (though it is often classified as rock), but anyway.

@potoole: I disagree that there is a general trend towards lesser entertainment. Its not like there were no questionable forms of entertainment in the past. And there still is high-level entertainment now, whatever that may be.

Thank you for your reply,
Patrick

Cougar
2012-Jun-13, 12:31 PM
"Rap" is a harbinger of worse entertainment to come.

Hmm. Not long after the rap incursion came reality TV. Coincidence?

Heid the Ba'
2012-Jun-13, 01:42 PM
Reading Shakespeare is like reading rap lyrics, you get the words but not the performance. I'm not a fan of rap but "Stan" stands out as inspired and some other songs reach me but most just seems like shouty noise. This does have the caveat that I'm a 50 year old white Scot, so not exactly the target audience.

Shakespeare depends largely on the performance on the day: I have seen Richard Branagh be god awful as Richard III and Dannii Minogue outstanding as Lady Macbeth. I sat through a production of King Lear which was turgid due to the director (Branagh again*) and a Hamlet that flew by as the cast were totally commited to it. Co-incidentally both the Macbeth and Hamlet above were staged outdoors.

In summary: rap can be good or it can be bad and even good Shakespeare can be bad.

Now get off my lawn with your hippity-hop and your iambic pentameter.



*I'm not anti-Branagh simply pointing out that even the best acclaimed actor/director can have off days/plays.

Edit to add: Apologies to Perikles, he makes a similar point in post #33, which I missed.

mike alexander
2012-Jun-13, 01:49 PM
A most important point made above. A play is meant to be heard and seen, not just read.

Heid the Ba'
2012-Jun-13, 02:27 PM
Thanks Mike, blind hogs etc. :)

A question for those who don't like Hamlet: do you like the first series of the Sopranos or Sons of Anarchy?

Nicolas
2012-Jun-13, 03:14 PM
Hmm. Not long after the rap incursion came reality TV. Coincidence?

And long before came slapstick. So...

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-13, 05:04 PM
Reading Shakespeare is like reading rap lyrics, you get the words but not the performance.

But even without the performance, it's immediately obvious that Shakespeare is good writing and good storytelling.

A poor performance is probably worse than reading it yourself, because they are "saying it wrong", whereas you can put your own interpretation on a reading.

Then again, any written work could be ruined by someone reading it aloud badly, whether it was intended to be performed or not.

mike alexander
2012-Jun-13, 06:32 PM
I took a course in the Bard at college and the professor would assign characters and have us read short sections in class with, as he said, "feeling." I was lucky enough to draw John Falstaff. "Prithee, sweet wag", "Their points being broken"... Wonderful stuff. Even when I cannot understand the words, the cadence just sweeps you along.

Gillianren
2012-Jun-13, 06:52 PM
My wife and I agree that half a dozen of his works are inspirational, but we disagree on which half dozen. We agree on four, but where I have A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations (despite the flawed ending), she declares them to be minor works. Perhaps this shows that we are too judgmental, or neither of us knows what we are talking about. Or she has no taste. :D

Technically, I have never read Great Expectations. My ninth-grade English teacher told us that she never intended to read it again, no matter what the State of California wanted from her, so she was going to assign us the Cliff's Notes instead. I barely made it through that. What this shows is that taste is a subjective thing--though I do maintain there is such thing as objectively bad. Seek ye out "The Eye of Argon" online; that's objectively bad. Neither Dickens nor Shakespeare--nor most rap--comes anywhere near that bad.


@potoole: I disagree that there is a general trend towards lesser entertainment. Its not like there were no questionable forms of entertainment in the past. And there still is high-level entertainment now, whatever that may be.

Right; the groundlings had the opportunity of going to see a Shakespeare play, and many of them did. But they could and did also go see bear-baiting, which I would say is worse than most of modern pop culture.

mike alexander
2012-Jun-13, 07:22 PM
And Dickens wasn't writing for fourteen year olds, anyway.

Gillianren
2012-Jun-13, 09:11 PM
Certainly true. No more was Homer, and we read The Odyssey.

swampyankee
2012-Jun-14, 01:42 AM
An interesting thing is that I found A Midsummer Nights Dream hilarious when I read it a couple of decades ago and The Tempest quite good too.

I think a very large part of the different impressions is that I wasn't forced to do it in school but could to it for fun.

I don't know how the Danish equivalent of high school English teachers are, but I'm convinced that they could kill the genre of erotica by teaching it in class.

Gillianren
2012-Jun-14, 02:06 AM
Ha. That's how my ninth grade English teacher got the guys interested in Romeo and Juliet. She translated the beginning into language they could understand. It worked, too.

HenrikOlsen
2012-Jun-14, 06:15 AM
I don't know how the Danish equivalent of high school English teachers are, but I'm convinced that they could kill the genre of erotica by teaching it in class.
Yep, something don't change.

Heid the Ba'
2012-Jun-14, 08:57 AM
But even without the performance, it's immediately obvious that Shakespeare is good writing and good storytelling.

Good storytelling certainly, hence my question about the Sopranos, but I'm not so convinced about the writing.

potoole
2012-Jun-15, 01:50 AM
I think we need to discuss this matter even further.

Jim
2012-Jun-15, 04:44 PM
My wife ... Or she has no taste. :D

Well, she did marry you, after all.
:whistle:

Perikles
2012-Jun-15, 05:40 PM
Well, she did marry you, after all.:whistle::D:D

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-15, 07:10 PM
I think we need to discuss this matter even further.

Well the good news is, this is a discussion site.

A friend of mine often quotes (someone) who said, "The art is to hide the art." Heartbreaking moments in films and books can have the viewer or reader in tears. But if it's overly obvious that that is the effect the writer is striving for, the effect is diminished and can even fall flat.

I find with rap, and some performance poetry, that it's so obvious what effect the writer is trying to provoke in the audience that it's simply embarrassing.

Nicolas
2012-Jun-15, 07:20 PM
Funny thing is, with pop I'm annoyed by the often total lack of attention to the feeling the song is bringing across versus its subject. Especially commercial dance music can be terrible at this: whether they are singing about the new love they found or there loved one who just died, the emotion of the music itself is identical. Idem dito with dance covers of older songs. They give them an atmosphere that often totally misses the point of the lyrics.

I don't think I'm making an overstatement when I say that my instrumental electronic music more clearly brings across the desired emotion that many songs with lyrics that ought to give a hint in the right direction. They go like "I'm so sad, lonely and without energy to do anything today" while on the background an uplifting trance theme with a high-energy beat plays. And I'm left totally confused.

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-15, 07:39 PM
This reminds me of a time in the 80s when everything was "deconstructed", apparently, which seemed to mean deliberately singing an emotional song without putting any feeling into it. The Human League version of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" springs to mind.

potoole
2012-Jun-15, 09:00 PM
Paul Beardsley

I find with rap, and some performance poetry, that it's so obvious what effect the writer is trying to provoke in the audience that it's simply embarrassing.

Worse than embarrassing.

But I'm an old fuddy-dud
PO'T

HenrikOlsen
2012-Jun-22, 05:23 AM
A friend of mine often quotes (someone) who said, "The art is to hide the art." Heartbreaking moments in films and books can have the viewer or reader in tears. But if it's overly obvious that that is the effect the writer is striving for, the effect is diminished and can even fall flat.
One of the reasons why the Buffy episode "The Body" is really hard to watch (and is by critics considered one of the best episodes ever broadcast by any show ever) is that it's totally without music.
Every other show where they have a major well loved character die and the entire episode is about that death, they use lots of music to tell the viewer what to feel, and because feelings invoked through mood music are not invoked by empathy with the people, the impact is lessened.

HenrikOlsen
2012-Jun-22, 05:25 AM
Funny thing is, with pop I'm annoyed by the often total lack of attention to the feeling the song is bringing across versus its subject. Especially commercial dance music can be terrible at this: whether they are singing about the new love they found or there loved one who just died, the emotion of the music itself is identical. Idem dito with dance covers of older songs. They give them an atmosphere that often totally misses the point of the lyrics.
I'm reminded of the multitude of people who were dancing vigorously to Zappa's "Dancing Fool".

Jim
2012-Jun-22, 11:45 AM
One of the most requested wedding songs is a beautiful ballad by Whitney Houston, I Will Always Love You. The title certainly sounds all weddingish... everlasting love and all.

But it's about someone leaving.

If I
Should stay
I would only be in your way
So I'll go
But I know
I'll think of you every step of
the way

And I
Will always
Love you ...

Real weddingish.

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-22, 01:08 PM
Well, at least they don't request "Love Like Anthrax" (later shortened to just "Anthrax") by Gang of Four:

I feel like a beetle on its back
and there's no way for me to get up
Love will get you like a case of anthrax
and that's something I don't want to catch

SeanF
2012-Jun-22, 03:07 PM
I heard a DJ on the radio once say that he had U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" played at his wedding. Couldn't tell if he was serious or not.

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-22, 05:12 PM
My favourite true wedding story from the early 1990s (hey, I'm helping to hijack my own thread)...

The elderly lady who plays the organ at the church was approached by the happy-couple-to-be.

Couple: "We'd like you to play 'Everything I do I do it for you' when we come into the church."

Lady: "Eh?"

Couple: "Oh, it's a song by Bryan Adams."

Lady "Eh?"

Couple: "It was number one for weeks and weeks."

Lady: "Er, sorry, I don't follow pop music."

Couple: "Oh, and it was the theme song in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner."

Lady: "Oh yes, I know the one."

Couple: "You do?"

Lady: "Yes, I can play that!"

So, on the happy day, the happy couple entered the church to the strains of "Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen..."

Nicolas
2012-Jun-22, 05:55 PM
Wedding dances...so few love songs are positive from start to end. :) As I'm getting married in a few weeks, we already made a list of worst wedding dance songs to choose.

There were subtle ones, such as Paradise by the Dashboard Light. It starts good, but the last part is about him wanting to get rid of her because he can't stand her anymore...

There were also less subtle ones. My favourite would be "I don't Wanna Dance" by Eddy Grant. :)

BigDon
2012-Jun-22, 06:17 PM
Man! I deleted and rewrote my reply three times.

I just don't have a nice thing to say about rap at all!

Gillianren
2012-Jun-22, 06:42 PM
Sting says he's always amused when people tell him they had "Every Breath You Take" as their wedding song. He wrote it about his ex-wife . . . during their breakup. If you listen to the lyrics, it's about a stalker!

Nicolas
2012-Jun-22, 08:15 PM
You can just about hear their brains during the wedding dance:

My poor heart aches 2 3 4
1 with every step you take 2 3 4
1 2 3 4

And even while counting steps, they don't get it. :D

Celestial Mechanic
2012-Jun-23, 01:44 AM
Although he could not have known about or foreseen rap music, the Bard summed it up best:

"... Like a tale told by an idiot, all sound and fury, signifying nothing ..."

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-23, 06:26 AM
Although he could not have known about or foreseen rap music, the Bard summed it up best:

"... Like a tale told by an idiot, all sound and fury, signifying nothing ..."

A pleasing resolution to the thread!

HenrikOlsen
2012-Jun-23, 08:36 AM
If you remember Sturgeon's law, because yes that's a good description of 90% of the rap out there.

pzkpfw
2012-Jun-23, 09:31 AM
Although he could not have known about or foreseen rap music, the Bard summed it up best:

"... Like a tale told by an idiot, all sound and fury, signifying nothing ..."

Pffft. Listen to some Public Enemy with an open mind.

"Fear of a Black Planet". I'd call that a classic alongside (not above or below) Romeo and Juliet (just for an e.g.).


(Disclaimer: I figure rap, hip hop etc. are equivalent for the purpose of this thread.)

Perikles
2012-Jun-23, 10:20 AM
If you remember Sturgeon's law....This is why to me it makes sense to ignore new stuff. Wait until the passage of time has sifted out most of the crud, then you get a much more efficient access to music or literature of merit. Half a century will do. Or a whole one to be more sure. :D

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-23, 11:07 AM
If you remember Sturgeon's law, because yes that's a good description of 90% of the rap out there.

Ye-e-es... but I'm more than a little wary of Sturgeon's law.

IIRC it was an exasperated, off-the-cuff remark he made when someone was dissing SF, to the effect of, "I'm not arguing with you when you say that 90% of SF is complete horses' hooves - but then again, 90% of pretty much anything is complete horses' hooves."

It's often the case that the majority of examples of any given thing are below par, but Sturgeon's Law is often quoted as if it were a law. And it's not. It's just an observation that often holds true.

A decade ago, one individual I know (part of the Interzone magazine editorial team at the time) went so far as to say that if you remove the 90% that is rubbish, then 90% of what remains is still rubbish. (He said other idiotic things too.)

Nicolas
2012-Jun-24, 09:56 AM
A decade ago, one individual I know (part of the Interzone magazine editorial team at the time) went so far as to say that if you remove the 90% that is rubbish, then 90% of what remains is still rubbish. (He said other idiotic things too.)

In a way he could be right, but you would be judging against a higher baseline. It would be relative rubbish.

Solfe
2012-Jun-24, 02:52 PM
I put rap and country in the same "listen-ability" column, but I actually listen to rap because it has a dance-able beat. The lyrics of both can be very powerful and thought provoking, even eloquent, but most of the time they aren't. Compare to hair-bands of the 80's, most have no thought provoking content. I think the difference is that rap and country revolve around people and interaction, while 80's hair-band songs revolve around a catchy cord or single line.

I would say any artist or song has the potential to be as good as Shakespeare, but I am still waiting to hear an example with that quality. Not much compares to Shakespeare in my book.

Nicolas
2012-Jun-24, 03:34 PM
To me, it's apples and oranges. How many Shakespeare works develop plot & characters from start to end in 4 minutes? Right.

Sam Bell
2012-Jun-24, 04:00 PM
I'll listen to a bit of 80's rap, but I don't understand how anyone could believe that a 30 year old pop culture genre is as deserving of recognition as work that is still something of a golden standard after 400 years. That's just vanity along with a strong sense of entitlement.

swampyankee
2012-Jun-24, 04:40 PM
To me, it's apples and oranges. How many Shakespeare works develop plot & characters from start to end in 4 minutes? Right.

Largely my feeling, too: Shakespeare and rap are two art forms (if rap isn't an art form, neither is any popular music or any primarily oral form). To me, the OP's question is not entirely sensible, sort of like "which is a better vehicle, a Lamborghini Gallardo or a J-boat?"

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-24, 04:41 PM
In a way he could be right, but you would be judging against a higher baseline. It would be relative rubbish.

I think this post demonstrates that Sturgeon's Law applies to comments made about Sturgeon's Law! ;)

Seriously, though, the adjective Sturgeon used (which probably isn't allowed on BAUT) equates to "worthless". This is not a relative quantity. And even if it was, there is no law of nature that dictates that the "relatively worthless" amount of that remaining 10% will be 90%.

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-24, 04:46 PM
Largely my feeling, too: Shakespeare and rap are two art forms (if rap isn't an art form, neither is any popular music or any primarily oral form). To me, the OP's question is not entirely sensible, sort of like "which is a better vehicle, a Lamborghini Gallardo or a J-boat?"

What do you mean, the OP's question? In the first post I was criticising someone for attempting to force a claim of similarity, which is pretty much the exact opposite of what you just said I did.

Nicolas
2012-Jun-24, 05:52 PM
@Paul: originally I was going to add that I only quoted 10% of your post for obvious reasons. But I thought that would be not so friendly so I left it out. But given your last reply to me... :D

I agree though that Sturgeon's remark should not be seen as a law. However, I htink it is a good generalisation about any art form.

swampyankee
2012-Jun-24, 11:54 PM
What do you mean, the OP's question? In the first post I was criticising someone for attempting to force a claim of similarity, which is pretty much the exact opposite of what you just said I did.

When I get improper amounts of caffeine, I break out in non sequiturs. Sorry.

Paul Beardsley
2012-Jun-25, 06:02 AM
When I get improper amounts of caffeine, I break out in non sequiturs. Sorry.

No problem. (By "improper" do you mean too much or too little?)

BigDon
2012-Jun-25, 07:58 AM
Sting says he's always amused when people tell him they had "Every Breath You Take" as their wedding song. He wrote it about his ex-wife . . . during their breakup. If you listen to the lyrics, it's about a stalker!

Though you almost never hear people requesting Nine Inch Nails' Closer as a wedding song...

(Me being me, I have the rare limited edition Kidz Bop version.)