‘You can't just say “words”’: literature and nonsense in the work of Robert Wyatt

Elliott, Richard (2014) ‘You can't just say “words”’: literature and nonsense in the work of Robert Wyatt. In: Litpop: writing and popular music. Ashgate, Farnham, pp. 49-62. ISBN 9781472410979

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Throughout his musical career, British musician Robert Wyatt has explored the interaction of words, language, sound and sense. His lyrical and musical delivery, by turns absurdist, infantile, angry and melancholic, deconstructs everyday phrases and invites listeners to question the borders of sense and nonsense. This chapter examines connections between Wyatt’s work and a range of literary voices, particularly those associated with nursery rhyme, nonsense verse and absurdism. A further aim is to explore the role of sense and nonsense in popular music. If one of the ways in which music differs from literature is through its ability to communicate without words, can there be a relationship between sense and nonsense in musical language that correlates with that found in literature? In what ways can musical language be said to make or not make sense? Exposure to Wyatt’s work emphasises the extent to which, as a musician, he has made use of words and vocables, even as he has occasionally distanced himself from the importance of lyrics in his music. By focussing on the literary-textual nature of Wyatt’s work, the text highlights the different demands and expectations placed on the ‘popular’ and the ‘literary’.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: music, literatur, nonsense, Robert Wyatt
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Music
Subjects: M Music. Literature on music. Musical instruction and study > M Music
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Richard Elliott
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2014 15:32
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2014 15:32
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/51592

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