Writing On Hard Mode, Part 2
This article is the second in a series entitled “Writing On Hard Mode” about constrained writing. To read the first article of the series, click here.
In the first article of this series, I introduced the concept of constrained writing–“a literary technique in which the writer is bound by some condition that forbids certain things or imposes a pattern.” I touched on a few techniques (namely lipograms, anagrams, prolificacy, and brevity) that have been expertly executed in the world of literature. This article will begin to examine some notable uses in hip-hop and other music.
While alliteration can be sprinkled throughout a piece of writing, an alliterative is a piece in which every letter begins with the same letter; oftentimes, which letter that is will change throughout different sections of the piece.
This one has been used a good amount in hip-hop. Artists like Blackalicious and Papoose have entire songs that systematically move through each letter. Emcee One Be Lo kicks it up a notch in his song “Double Essay“ and raps an alliterative pattern so that every three words of the song begin with S, S, and A respectively.
Even some of our own artists here at Nerdcore Now got into the action when I challenged them to demonstrate their alliteration skills. Guys like KABUTO THE PYTHON & beaker, Sulfur & cecilnick, and jollilmus & Cliff B went balls out and submitted full on alliteratives!
There are so many levels and variations of this one. The most straight ahead execution is as demonstrated by the website Quadrivial Quandry. Each day, they give four new words to participants. The goal is to craft a cohesive sentence that uses all four of the words (It’s a great exercise!). That’s mandated vocabulary at its simplest: someone gives you words and you have to use them.
This can be done in a general, categorical way as well, though. Rapper KJ-52 has a song called “47 Emcees” wherein he works the names of 47 rappers into the lyrics. I once did a similar concept with breakfast cereal.
Oftentimes in hip-hop, this is done more on a conceptual level than the strict vocabulary level. Songs like ”More” by Mars Ill or ”I Like It! feat. MC Frontalot & Beefy” by Supercommuter, while they do use the titular words over and over, are more about the concept of every line being about the same thing.
Similarly, the most common use of this in hip-hop is during live freestyles. In a practice reminiscent of Who’s Line Is It Anyway?, rappers will make a show of soliciting suggestions from the audience for things to freestyle about, often picking a few and incorporating them into a freestyle on the spot. A cat who is notoriously good at this is Astronautalis.
Nerdcore’s own Random a/k/a Megaran has his own variation in which he has everyone pull something out of their pocket and goes around the room. It’s always a crowd pleaser.
There are a few definitions of Twiction, but it began as writing done on Twitter. Now it can either refer to writing that comprises no more than 140 characters total, is exactly 140 characters long, or is written (typically on Twitter) 140 characters or less at a time.
Troves of people have written (or began writing) books in this way, but the coolest part about this as far as hip-hop is concerned is collaborative environment it allows. If you’re writing on Twitter, anyone can reply in real-time.
Dualcore has done a couple of tracks this way. The great things it allows is for folks who may not normally have the time to write or opportunity to work together, can do so much more easily. Dualcore’s “Magnificent Seven,” which features MC Frontalot, MC Lars, Schaffer the Darklord, Beefy, Random, and YTCracker is a resounding testament to this.
As far as execution, the 140 characters at a time limit leads to faster interchanges between emcees that are very reminiscent of old skool line trading many hip-hop fans are so fond of.
This last one hasn’t (to my knowledge) been used in hip-hop…yet! I hope some readers of this article may be inspired to take on the challenge. this may be the nerdiest form of constrained writing I’ve encountered. And I love it.
Pilish is a form of writing in which the number of letters in each successive word corresponds to the digits of pi. I’ll write that again: Pilish is a form of writing in which the number of letters in each successive word corresponds to the digits of pi.
Michael Keith has written the two longest Pilish works of which I am aware. The full title of his longest (which is itself in Pilish) is “Not A Wake: A dream embodying π’s digits fully for 10000 decimals”. For those keeping track, the number of letters in each word are 3, 1, 4, 1, 5, 9, 2, 6, 5, 3, 5, and 8 respectively. If that doesn’t inspire you to give it a try yourself, go read the first couple pages of it, or the full text of his other work Cadaeic Cadenza.
For those looking to try it out, in Basic Pilish 0 counts as 10. If you want to use Standard Pilish you can also use consecutive digits as numbers greater than 10. For example, if you have a 1 followed by a 2, you are allowed to count that as 12 anytime you wish. This enables longer words in case (as Keith puts it) “one wants to write about such common topics as, say, objectivism, or a cheeseburger.”
For more Pilish particulars, check out Keith’s site.
So who will be the first artist to release a song written in Pilish? I suspect (and hope!) we’ll find out soon enough.
Source : Writing in Pilish
This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 18th, 2012 at 7:00 am and is filed under Editorials, Originals, Ticker, Writing On Hard Mode.
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