This paper presents an analysis of the composition and revision of the song “The Echoing Green”. The song is an adaptation of William Blake’s lyric poem “The Ecchoing Green” published in his poem collection Songs of Innocence (1789). Two versions of this song are under examination here. The composition section delves into the initial designs of genres, rhythmic patterns, melodic lines, and emotional contexts that are applied to the first version (2019). The revision section elaborates on the changes made to the first version and the new features in the current version (2020). Video and audio clips are included to ensure the accessibility and clarity of the oral presentation.
The philosophy of adaptation for this project is based on the interactive fusion of the primary motifs and messages in Blake’s texts/images and the songwriter's own channeling and reflective reconstructions of melodic lines. When a poem is set to music, it naturally acquires another format, another quality, another dimension. The words are expressed within musical structures and sounds, which add new colors to the pitch, rhythm, rhyme, and textures of the original texts. As Simon Frith states, “Song words work as speech and speech acts, bearing meaning not just semantically, but also as structures of sound that are direct signs of emotion and marks of character” (97). In the process of singing the words out loud, the abstract and indirect linguistic signifiers are somewhat converted into immediate auditory articulations in the song form. This project hereby explores the boundaries between the meaning of sounds and the meaning of words in Blake’s poems. It celebrates and re-imagines Blake’s poetic and spiritual legacy by way of creative combinations of verbal and musical expressions.
Zhongxing Zeng is a Ph.D. (Literature) student in the English Department at Arizona State University, where he works with Professor Mark Lussier. His research interests include William Blake, English Romanticism, and English-Chinese Literary Translation. He is also a singer-songwriter with publications of original music on NetEase Music.