rsz 1villon testament cover


 The Echo of Villon in Ezra Pound’s Music and Poetry .

Toward a Theory of Duration Rhyme

Kindle 2013.


review by Roxana Preda

Margaret Fisher’s two volumes of 2013,1 The Echo of Villon and The Transparency of Ezra Pound’s Great Bass make a very important claim, namely that musical thought and musical composition are not ancillary to Pound’s poetry but offer a veritable methodology for studying Pound’s prosody structures. Readers who are familiar with even rudiments of musical theory will be able to follow Fisher’s argument, which is written with a clarity especially valuable to a non-musician reader. The payoff is huge – if Fisher is right, we may be able to understand and study Pound’s very special melopoeia using music analysis and digital tools to develop new methodologies. Implicitly, Fisher asks us to acknowledge and study music theory as an obligatory discipline in the Ezuversity curriculum. 

Her perspective and methodology in The Echo of Villon are derived from her computer-assisted analysis of Pound’s recorded readings. She discovered that Pound was maintaining a stable 88 beat per minute tempo in reading his poetry aloud – an unusual skill. Because Pound’s tempo provided a steady reference, it was possible for Fisher to measure line, phrase, word, syllable, and vowel durations in a precise way. She found a great deal of structural coherence in the relationships and proportions established among them. Pound’s compositional activities between 1930 and 1933, while scoring the successive versions of his opera, Le Testament de François Villon were not a simple diversion from poetry, as traditionally assumed, but rather the workshop in which Pound learned to think in “shapes cut in time” by teaching himself how to compose musical structures adjusted to French quantitative verse. Fisher calls these shapes “duration rhymes”: they were first theorized in the facsimile edition, Le Testament. An Opera by Ezra Pound, edited by her and Robert Hughes.