The Impact of Black Music on the Poetic Works of Langston Hughes

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English 105 MW 0935
12/1/2010

The Impact of Black Music on the Poetic Works of Langston Hughes The symbiotic relationship of poetry in music is what transforms a beautiful melody into a song for the ages. However there is a similar interplay of music in poetry. Poetry like music evokes powerful imagery and distills the essence of the subject in an enduring form. No one did this with greater care and admiration for his subject; the Black American people, than Langston Hughes. Through Hughes’ introduction of musical devices in poetry he succinctly clarifies the experience and nature of his people as a fly is immortalized in amber. In this essay we explore the impact of the Blues musical form and its artists on the work of Langston Hughes. At first glance readers of Hughes’ work may wonder why the Blues, why music? Perhaps he got carried away in the rampant experimentation of the Harlem Renaissance. Perhaps while he sat in various speakeasy’s and jazz bars that even Langston Hughes found himself incapable of expressing his experience without lifting prose from the very Blues he was hearing. It is my hypothesis that both the Blues and Langston Hughes’ poetry accomplish the same goal yet remain separate art forms. Much like the American language has borrowed words from foreign languages to elegantly convey a sophisticated concept, Hughes’ used musical devices to capture the same essence captured in this form of black music. A side note about black music, while the musical forms during Hughes’ lifetime shifted across the decades much of the black music made popular in America was written for that purpose. That the music of legends like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald made millions is not a criticism. Hughes states as much and adding that all Black has merit as a cultural form.2 In Hughes’ attempts to distill and archive the black experience, he predominantly focused on music the...
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