Continuing my examination of the connections between music and writing, I heard a musician saying that you can hit the wrong notes in music and it matters a little, but you still have music. If you can’t play rhythm, however, you don’t have music. He added that rhythm has much deeper roots in our antiquity. He suggested that drums and even clicking stones together to make tools, goes back to our early beginnings.
I immediately thought of dramatic structure. Aristotle first spoke of it in his Poetics in c. 335 BCE. Later, his notion became standard for writers and filmmakers. In almost all media, the action rises and falls, similar to the rhythm in music. You can falter in your presentation of a story, but, if the rhythm, the dramatic structure is flat, you will lose them. You don‘t have a story without rhythm.
In more modern literature, this translates into the protagonist going from one crisis to another. Each time he resolves one, he is presented with another. Each one raises the tension until there is a climax, and then there is falling action, followed by the dénouement, resolution, revelation or catastrophe.
It’s fun at times to watch a movie or read a book and name the points where action begins rising, is resolved, only to go higher, and higher, only to fall finally and the thing is resolved.
Interestingly, music must end on a note that resolves the notes as well. If it doesn’t, it leaves the listeners hanging, just like a plot that is not satisfying to readers.
Melody came later than rhythm. What is the connection between music and writing when it comes to melody. I think it is person and voice. When melody came about about 400 years ago. That was a little after troubadours began playing songs about chivalry and courtly love. They set the stage for modern storytelling, which Cervantes, the first novelist, wrote Don Quixote, considered to be the first modern European novel.
It is person and voice that make a novel different from other storytelling, in my opinion.