Musical Language

I asked a friend from China once what English sounded like before she knew how to speak and understand it. She replied right away that, with her very young and untouched ears, she remembered it struck her as being musical. I was surprised by the answer because Chinese has four tones and one practical has to sing it to be understood.

Since then I have tried to listen to my own language without actually grasping the meaning of the words, but only paying attention to its musical rhythm. It is not an easy thing to do. However, I have discovered through this investigation of the cadence of speech, that there are patterns, inflections and particular emphasis in the pronunciation of words, along with a certain tempo throughout each sentence. There are standard ways of saying things in order to be understood. Deviations from the standard can lead to either being hard to understand or to giving a person a unique flair. Actors practice for years to develop a rhythm of speech that is not too strange, yet is distinctive enough to stand out from the rest. They create their own way of ‘singing’ language.

We’ve learned these ‘songs’ to sing to one another as charming birds do to enchant their listeners. Some people have a steady flow and pace to their speech and it makes it easy to listen to them. Others are more disjointed and it is like listening to something cacophonous. There is a way of jumping into conversation as well which includes precision in timing. It is not unlike playing an instrument in order to be harmonious with the other ‘players’.

Writing assignment: Listen to various people speaking and describe what makes each one different.

Music assignment: Listen to the pace of a newscaster’s speech and write five measures of music at the same tempo and that musically describes his/her voice.

Book Orders for

THE MUSIC IS WRITTEN by Tatiana Pietrzak, a collection of poetry about music:

 Or call Rose Dog Books: 1-800-834-1803

Music Video:

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About tatiana333

Tatiana Pietrzak graduated with a Master’s in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. After studying in London, Paris, Siena and Florence, she lived and worked for four years in Beijing in film and television. She has published articles in The Beijing University Newsletter, The Eagle and The Santa Fe New Mexican. In addition, she has won two Editor’s Choice awards from the National Library of Congress and was granted a Distinguished Membership from the Board of Directors and Advisory Committee of The International Society of Poets. Presently Tatiana is working on her first novel and a second compilation of poetry.
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One Response to Musical Language

  1. Ronald Douglas says:

    Enjoyed the poetry and look forward to volume two!

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