The Function of the Music in Porgy

2057 Words Jun 18th, 2018 9 Pages
Music has a way of bringing out our emotions. We say that there are moods of music, and we know which songs make us happy and which make us sad. But music also connects with us intellectually through the lyrics and what we understand them to mean. Thus, music becomes a way to link aspects of intellectual and emotional life – to combine thought and feeling. In the novel Porgy, we see music used as a tool to do just that; music, whether sung, imitated, or described metaphorically, is used, among other things, to link mental and emotional states.

One way music serves as a link is by tying the emotions of the reader to the situation and state of mind of the characters or community. The first instance of this is when the community is
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(19)

As soon as the chant starts, “the mortal embodiment of infinite sorrow” breaks. That is, the chant signals to the mourners that it is time to release the sorrow that they have been trying to suppress up until this point, and they do so not individually but as a community. Here, music is acting as an agent that resolves a discrepancy between thought and feeling; it lets the characters know that it is now appropriate to stop fighting their emotions with their intellect, to let their emotions out and allow their thoughts to follow. In other words, the music is an intellectual cue for an emotional release. The preacher then uses the same rhythm as the hymn to further this effect, using repetitions (which are also a vital part of music) until the “effect rocked the entire company” (19).

After the wake, the mourners sing a spiritual. Heyward writes, “Beautiful and poignant it rose, swelling out above the sounds of falling earth as the grave was filled” (20). This image is one of beauty coming out of death and a new beginning – the covering of the grave represents a covering of death as a concept and the sounds rising up create a hopeful atmosphere. The spiritual then is an intellectual cue to the characters that it is time to move on and try to lift up their spirits again, but it also allows the readers to notice the change in mood of the characters through the change in mood of the music. The lyrics

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