From the impact of clocks on notions of time, to the effects of computers, trains and planes on experiences of modern life, rhythm – in various forms and ways – determines, and has always determined, how we live our lives and how we see the world. Some rhythms bring people together: listening to music can be a collective experience; morning commutes and long journeys can create a shared rhythm amongst the travelling bodies.
Rhythm in poetry dictates how we digest words and phrases, and often is what makes lines memorable and powerful. Take Thomas Hardy’s “Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me”, for example, or Maya Angelou’s “But still, like dust, I’ll rise” . Hardy’s repetition of “call to me” heightens the sense of the speaker’s anguish, and the repeated stress on “call”, before the dwindling dum-dum, “to me… to me”, highlights both the hopefulness and hopelessness of his hallucination. Angelou’s commas slow down the reader’s processing of the line and instil a quiet strength, power and dignity to the defiant statement.
Other rhythms, however, are less easily identifiable. Rhythm can be social or political. (And in Angelou’s writing, the personal and political are often inevitably entangled.) Breaking a rhythm can mean breaking – or breaking away from – an existing temporality or understanding of how we operate in the world. Rhythm can equally be gendered; motherhood and menstruation can affect our experiences of time. Forms of rhythm can also vary geographically and ecologically, as from city to countryside, and can change over time. Ancient rhythms of birdsong and seasons have increasingly been supplanted by modern rhythms of tapping, typing, scrolling, swiping. Even linguistic and physical rhythms, how we communicate and move, though similar within proximate communities, vary infinitely worldwide.
The rhythms of this section are rhythms of walking, thinking, scribbling, talking, and making. They are rhythms of art, nature, poetry and history.
This section seeks to explore how we sense and interpret rhythm today, and to understand how it can be both a collective and an individual experience. We are just as interested in explorations and considerations of rhythm as a feature and product of art, as we are of rhythm as a component of the artistic process. “I never violate an inner rhythm,” said Lee Krasner, for example. “I listen to it and stay with it.”
The pieces that comprise of this section have both surprised and delighted me. Some match my own initial ideas related to artistic and intellectual explorations of rhythm: rhythm as a feature of art that is as prominent in the process of creation as in the final work, as evident in Andrew Nairne’s discussion of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, or rhythm as a social phenomenon, as explored by Ewan Jones.
Other explorations of the theme have been more surprising. The line has taken centre stage in a way that I didn’t expect, with multiple artists exploring different modes of line as rhythmic forms of artistic expression. I was also pleasantly surprised by one artist’s notion that the rhythms of physical making can act as a vehicle to connect the maker with the past and with artists that have gone before them. The rhythm of walking, and the idea to capture these journeys through a 360-degree lens, is, for another, a means of avoiding the masculine idea of ‘conquering’ nature, and reconnecting with the self.
The rhythms of this section are rhythms of walking, thinking, scribbling, talking, and making. They are rhythms of art, nature, poetry and history. They demonstrate the power of rhythm to transport us into the past while reconsidering the rhythms of our present, and to better and more deeply connect us with ourselves. Many rhythmic avenues, however, remain unexplored. I continue to welcome submissions on the subject of rhythm, that address either similar themes or interpretations as those included here, or very different ones.
Click here to explore RHYTHM.
For more information on submitting your work please see Open call: Rhythm.
Image taken from page 461 of ‘Narrative of events during the invasion of Russia by Napoleon Buonaparte, and the retreat of the French Army. 1812. Edited by the Rev. H. Randolph.’ via British Library on Flickr.