Spoken word is used as a musical or entertainment term, referring to works or performances that consist solely or mostly of one person speaking as if naturally. Musically, this is distinct from rapping, as rapping incorporates rhythm and sometimes melody, whereas spoken word is more akin to narration or speaking as the person would in conversation, as shown in the song "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)" by Baz Luhrmann. In entertainment, spoken word performances generally consist of storytelling or sometimes poetry, something exemplified by people like Hedwig Gorski, the originator of performance poetry, Mark "Chopper" Read and Henry Rollins.
History[edit | edit source]
Spoken word as it is known today did not evolve until the late 1980s and early 1990s with the emergence of "poetry slams," where spoken word artists would square off in cabaret-style duels.(Citation needed) This type of competitive slam poetry event has been popular in India for centuries.(Citation needed) In the United States, the competition of slam poetry probably arose from rap music and rapper competitions.(Citation needed) The common element is protest and a critical or corrective tone.(Citation needed) Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City is one of the earliest venues where poets could protest the ills of society.(Citation needed) Def Poetry on HBO became the most visible venue for slam-type protest poets, but the poets did not necessarily compete against each other for audience approval. Hip-hop is now commonly considered under the general genre of spoken word as shown in a recent article by Clare Morgan in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Spoken Word was adopted by college circles in the early 1980s to describe a new wave of performing arts that was birthed during Postmodern Art Movement. Spoken Word was basically a catchall phrase to describe anything that didn't fit into the already established categories of performance arts such as music, theatre, and dance.
The Spoken Word movement in the 1980s is similar to the Beats in the 1960s. Spoken word and the Beats share a mutual lack of respect from the academic community, emphasis on poetry, and poems about consciousness and confession. The main difference is that spoken word is not recognized because it is not published. Many artists and poets have not published any of their works in book forms. Some use video and audio recording, the means used exclusivley by Hedwig Gorski, who rejected what she called the "dull-drums" of book publishing in the 1980s. Also spoken word is part of the oral culture movement spreading literary expression to include all diversities, not just about the white male community as was the Beats in the 1960s.
Motivation[edit | edit source]
Since its inception, the spoken word has been an outlet for people to release their views outside the academic and institutional domains of the university and academic or small press. The spoken word, or slam poetry, evolved into the present day soap-box for people to express their views, emotions, life experiences or information. The views of spoken word artists encompass religion, politics, sex and gender. For example, Diane Ferlatte traveled from school to school using spoken word to tell children stories that were based on her experiences with racial injustice. When talking about emotion, it depends. A spoken word piece can be powerful with the right emotion behind it but, at the same time, a lack of emotion can set a poem apart. It all depends on the topic. Life experiences are best, especially when the person has actually lived through the experience. Lastly, spoken word is used to inform or make people conscious of some aspect pertaining to life.
Performance[edit | edit source]
Coffee shops, university lounges, book stores, open mics, and public spaces are common venues for spoken word. Many venues hold "open mic" nights where a host will allow anyone to sign up and give a performance. Although it is often poetry, many spoken word artists use "open mic" nights to present any form of message, be it confession, a political essay, or a call for action.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- defining spoken word - Spoken Oak
- spoken word - MSU
- "Women Rising XIX: Masters of the Spoken Word" Making Contact, produced by National Radio Project. March 11, 2009.
- defining spoken word - Spoken Oak
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