P R O S O D Y
This prosodic work interrelates broad research, experiential practices, performance, teaching and social intercession while centered on intrinsic awareness, luminosity of heart and individual, social and ecological wellbeing. Prosody is consonant with decisions that fulfill one's life-purpose.
As a whole, I refer to this correlational field as integrative prosody. To emphasize the interrelation-ship of all things and an enactive use of the potency of words, I've called the course I teach Implicate Prosody. The collaborative process of experientially elucidating and practicing prosody is known as the Prosody Body. The collective findings of the Prosodic Body are regularly presented by a performance group named The Commons Choir.
Although the word "prosody" is almost unheard of, its effects are as commonplace as speech,
and without its modulations we’d be mutually incomprehensible.
“Prosody” comes from Greek prosodia “tune” or “speech set to song.” Narrowly, prosody can be defined as the stress, tempo, tone, intonation and intensity of speech. The sciences of prosody focus on the expressive features of the spoken word not necessarily encoded in the neutrality of the lexical, grammatical levels of language, including fields such as phonology, phonosemantics, psychoacoustics and prosodically-relevant literary theory from the Natya Shastra to Russian Formalism to Saussurian structuralism to New Feminist Literary Criticism.
Prosody as practiced by poets is typically concerned with sound-patterning and page-dependent spatial design, drawing on basic elements of composition such as pitch, accent, alliteration, loudness, syllable count, cadence, phrasing, rhyme, lineation, enjambment, duration of juncture, speech rhythm, syntactic-repetition, strophe, page-specific word placement and handwriting, ostensibly in order to heighten the meaning or opacity of language. Non-acoustic, retinal, transcriptive, typographic devices such as font-choice, scare quotes, boldface, striking-through, overprinting, and word-spacing can also be read prosodically, as an extra-lexical score or performance-notation. Facial expression and gesture are also parts of the total performance of live prosody. The poem’s stored performance on the page or screen might be its only presence, written non-aurally for no ulterior stage, as pure-page or solely-monitored prosody untransduced from prior or commensurate vocalization, awaiting the metabolic speed of diffusion on paper or speed of light electronic transmission.
Expressively, gesture, affect and intention are also integral to prosody. The way we say what we say is what we say. Meaning that is implied but unspoken is part of prosody. The inexpressible is prosody’s source. It’s necessary for our survival, as organisms, as allostatic and reflective creatures, that words say more than they can say and are spoken through the whole body.
A more comprehensive definition would include prosody as bioregulatory, protolinguistic and even cosmogenic. The physics of sound and the principles of energy as vibration and environment as energetic, also factor into a fuller participation in prosodic plenitude. Auditory science, acoustic ecology, transductive technology and telecommunications allow us to constitute ourselves more acutely in a lived mechanical and electromagnetic spatiality.
Prosody’s medium is our very interactions, through which we compose each moment, congruent with and constitutive of Creation. For example, intonation of voice activates a child’s parasympathetic system, telling her it’s safe to be sensory, to learn, to relate and to love — or it communicates otherwise. The Zulu expression umuntu ngumuntu nagabantu comes to mind: “a person is a person because of other people.” Our ability to be intimate is tuned by the tautening or loosening of the smallest skeletal muscle in the body, the stapedius, which is innervated by the quality of our voices via the ventral vagal pathway. Assembling the body prosodically, integratively, engages the marvel of vibratory energy that formed our beings so that it would be spoken, and provides us with a working knowledge of health and happiness.
And, thinking of stress as a primary prosodic feature as well as the factor implicated in the etiology or worsening of all sickness, it can be argued that the intensifying of our current, compounded economic, ecological and inequity crises has turned what had been experienced as "mere" stressors into traumatization. Prosody travels along the same interpersonal , affective, psychosomatic pathways as trauma-reaction, proffering immediate modes of treatment for today's acute conditions.
The body becomes subconscious mind and biography becomes biology. In the words of poet George Quasha, “healing is a function of how we address ourselves.”