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Modern Oral Stories

Before literacy was as widespread as it is in contemporary eras, stories were recited orally. To better help the storytellers remember the tales, these stories were often told in musical form, or at least in poetry, rather than standard prose. Although it is not as common today as in the past, there are still examples of stories with arcs and heroes that are in modern music. Although most obvious and prevalent in progressive rock and metal, it can be found in other genres as well (though most likely not in pop, or at least not in pop singles). Examine what genres tell stories and what kinds of stories are told in each genre.

Alternatively, give an analysis of Coheed and Cambria’s musical epic about The Amory Wars. How does telling this long story through music affect it? What separates this from other prog bands? from past epics? from modern story telling? Do Coheed and Cambria invoke any of the classic tropes and standards of epic poetry?

  • I am interested to see where this goes. I think the idea of rock and metal as an oral story is great! I would be interested to formulate part of this question as a comparison between a particular piece of literature that was oral, and a particular song in the rock/metal genre. Can't wait to see where someone takes this! – emilyinmannyc 5 years ago
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  • Exactly. To maybe suggest a classic oral study to compare against, Beowulf is a story known to have an oral origin that has themes similar to that of more story-central rock and especially metal songs/albums. In fact, I am sure there are plenty of songs that serve as adaptations of Beowulf – nsnow 5 years ago
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  • While not an original story written by the band, Iron Maiden's Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a musical retelling of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem of the same name. At 13+ minutes, it brings up a fair point. A thirteen minute song would have a difficult time getting airplay, especially now. How long can the story be? Can you still tell the same story in a radio edit? Does airplay even matter now with music streaming services gaining market share over traditional radio? – loridonnellynj 5 years ago
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  • All great points about Iron Maiden's take on "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." I'd say an adaptation between genres like that is still relevant to the topic, and definitely this is an interesting choice. – nsnow 5 years ago
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