The Kentucky creative economy – wait: there is such a thing? A whole economy, that is? Yes and it’s, “alive and well,” as they say, but also largely misunderstood. And that’s been researched, quantified and all done up in a nice package presented by the Kentucky Arts Council.
UnderMain thought you might like to peruse this portrait of the arts production happening all around you, every day, here in the Commonwealth.
“Why isn’t there a word rhythm dictionary?” Tim Polashek once wondered. He no longer asks. No need. The Transylvania University Assistant Professor of Music got busy responding to his own question, resulting in publication of The Word Rhythm Dictionary: A Resource for Writers, Rappers, Poets, and Lyricists (Rowman & Littlefield), a 689 page gold mine for the creative-yet-stumped.
“I really just see this as another tool. Tools matter in that they offer different perspectives and methods, and can shape direction of creativity,” said Polashek. “For example, some computer programs allow easy reversing of melodic motives. Others don’t. This affects creativity. I’m constantly asking myself and students how a given tool shapes creativity, and to be objective about the tool.”
Rhythm rhymes are defined in the introduction as consisting of two or more words with the same rhythm, sharing the same number of syllables “and relative positions of primarily accented, secondarily accented and unstressed syllables.” Unlike traditional rhymes, rhythm rhymes need not have matching vowel sounds.
Polashek said the book is an expression of his longtime interest in the relationships between music and speech as well as the pitch and rhythms of spoken speech.
He has created a series of computer programs to help him manipulate and search for words with certain properties for creative projects. “For example, show me all the words that have two ‘t’ sounds and a ‘z’ sound. Or, show me ten words that are five syllables long that have accents on the third syllables.”
Has also has written programs to generate nonsensical text with certain musical properties. “So, when I got around to actually writing the dictionary, I had a lot of software tools to help me.”
The typical rhyming dictionary groups words based on vowel sounds and is primarily concerned with the vowels at the ends of words. The Word RhythmDictionary takes a different approach, grouping words by several properties: syllabic stress (primary, secondary, and unstressed) which determines the rhythm tendencies of the word; within these groups, secondary sorting occurs by vowels; and by consonants. “So as you read the rhythm rhyme-groups there is movement along a timbre/word sound similarity continuum,” he explained.
How might a lyricist or poet use the Polashek dictionary? The author suggests three methods: thinking of a word, then browsing a list of words with identical rhythms; coming up with a poetic foot and then searching a list of words that rhythmically match; or establishing a musical rhythm and then browsing a list of words that rhythmically or lyrically fit.
The approach, said Polashek, makes it easier to locate words that feature similar sounds, matching meters, and rhythmic grooves, from traditional rhymes like “clashing” and “splashing,” to near rhymes like “rollover” and “bulldozer,” “unrefuted undisputed” to pure metrical matches, like “biology” and “photography.”
“Upon observing a couple of words in the same group, some interesting scene or semantic concept might pop into mind that will generate a line of poetry or a lyric, perhaps reflecting some subconscious things that the writer had been considering—a linguist Rorschach test, perhaps?”
This is not to suggest that it hasn’t always been there, but networking or “cross-pollination” among various arts disciplines seems to be happening with more frequency lately in Lexington.
As some wise person once said: “more ‘o that!”
Writing in ACE Magazine several years ago, Candace Chaney noted Lexington’s rich literary history and the presence of a serious, if struggling, theatre community and suggested that cooperation and collaboration between the two might give rise to homegrown playwrights. This inspired idea remains a long way from yielding onstage results – although we have seen growth and development in local theatre production. But the concept has taken hold in other areas and we think it’s worth noting.
Recent examples include the mid-June production at the Downtown Arts Center of The Broken Queen, a multi-disciplinary collaboration between Blackbird Dance Theatre and a reunion of the Lexington band Chico Fellini.
And Story Magazine has launched its “Story Sessions” series – intimate concerts that engage a variety of talents and skills ranging from music and sound production to communication and publishing.
These productions and events join The Carnegie Center’s Carnegie Classics, and Balagula Theatre in inviting varieties of artists to share talents and skills in collaborative settings.
This departure from limiting our arts scene to the pitting of one discipline against another to grovel for scarce financial lifeblood is healthy and promising.
The question is, what does it take to establish a “go to” network to enable vital communication between, perhaps, a videographer and a sound-designer, or a performance artist and a sound and lighting talent? Is this a function of some independent non-profit? Or should our municipal government establish such a role?
Wouldn’t it be great if we figured out how to sustain arts production in Lexington?