Songs without words

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Apr 26 00:25:19 UTC 2010

At 2:31 PM -0700 4/25/10, David Wake wrote:
>The use of "Song Without Words" as a title for a short composition for
>solo piano seems to have been Mendelssohn's invention.  The fact that
>Mendelssohn felt compelled to add the qualification "Without Words" is
>an admission that, by default, a "Song" in classical music is "With
>Words" -- i.e. it features the human voice.

Just as when Strauss titled his opera "Die Frau ohne Schatten" he was
admitting, by default, that other women have shadows.  Of course,
this isn't quite algorithmic; Woody Allen's book _Without Feathers_
was not intended to imply that everything else has feathers (but was
a more specific rebuttal to a line of Dickinson's.  ('How wrong Emily
Dickinson was! Hope is not "the thing with feathers". The thing with
feathers has turned to be my nephew. I must take him to a specialist
in Zurich.').


The American Dialect Society -

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