Lost time on the beach Violin Composition in Response to "Jellyfish" and "The Shark"

Poetry is an aspect of life that cannot be ignored. Poetry is the waves crashing on the shore, the strike of a bow on strings; it is the sun rising and falling every day in intervals. Poets are the brave souls who decide to take this magic, and convert it into lines of art.

As I looked through poems to study, I found "Jellyfish" and after that "The Shark". I had decided that the best way for me to truly appreciate these poems, as well as put my ideas of their meaning into action, is to compose my own song comprising of both on the violin. The idea at first consisted of me wanting to show the difference between the two poems and the stark difference between the masculine and the feminine. The more that I looked at the poems, however, and really thought about how I would like to start with writing the song, I had realised that I would rather not focus on the difference between the two but rather the complementary aspects. As a feminist, I believe in complete equality. If women are allowed to claim that men need us, it is only fair to agree that we need them as well. Also, with each person there are different points in which each individual person finds themselves on the spectrum between masculinity and femininity.

The Shark- E. J. Pratt

What I loved most about "The Shark" is the visual that it gives it's reader. The repetition of the word "And" not only enforces the idea of building something up, as men are told that they must do but also feeding the imagination of one trying to visualise the literal shark that is being depicted.

Photo taken by Rachael Cousins

My idea, while taking on the challenge of composing my own song based around these poems, is that I knew that I wanted to keep it simple, but beautiful. I do not wish to challenge the poems in any way or to follow them in an exact fashion. I feel that I would feel as if my song is competing with the poems instead of showcasing their influence on me.

Photo Taken by Rachael Cousins

As shown in the pictures that I have featured, I had a lot of trouble finding a place that I felt comfortable enough to play my violin freely without annoying any ears that may be within hearing distance. My way of getting around that was to get as far away from the city as possible, and that meant to the beach. This helped in more ways than one as I had the privacy that I wished to seek as well as feeling closer to the poems in general from sitting right beside sifting waves of the Northumberland Strait. The best help with my mental block while composing was to feel as if there were sharks and jellyfish alike in and around the water that I sat next to.

In my interpretation of what I had played in response to these two poems, you may notice that it does not flow the same way that a typical song on the violin does. This is for a few reasons: one being that I haven't played the violin in about 4 years so I was a bit rusty in trying to swing back into it. The other reason though is that while sitting next to the water watching the waves lap onto the shore and trying to imagine what it is like to be the shark or the jellyfish, I realised that it would be a little confusing and dizzying. I don't think the ocean ever makes sense, just as life does not always make sense, the same as how this song doesn't make a lot of sense. All that we have around us and inside of us is jumbled up messes of tunes that get stuck in our heads and that was what I had decided to express in my playing.

The Jellyfish- Sue Sinclair

"Stranded, they shrink slowly into the sand, And you have the unicomfortable feeling Of knowing more than you should, Like watching a man pretend he isn't fat, isn't lonely, can't cry."
Photo taken by Rachael Cousins

In the poem "Jellyfish" by Sue Sinclair, the reader is taken on a journey in the eyes of a jellyfish through life, then death, and finally life again. I feel the feminism and fear of being feminine in the lines pertaining to the man. It is seen as a lack of masculinity (and thus a surge of femininity) to feel lonely, and to worry of your appearance. Femininity can be seen by this poem as being a more nonsensical and weaker form of being, as a jellyfish which is left stranded to die on the shores. That depends on the reader of course, as that is not exactly how I have come to know this poem.

What stands out to me most about this poem is the idea of feminine beauty. Though this poem focuses on many "assumed" position of feminine people such as that mentioned above, this poem also touches base on the idea that above all, a woman must remain beautiful. At first I had taken this harshly in the light that it only meant outward beauty, but upon reading it closer while holding my violin at my side I saw a different light to it. The "beauty that collapses and then begins again" is not merely a beauty set aside for the skin. It is all of the types of beauty a person can be. It is a beautiful mind, a beautiful heart, soul, life, surroundings. It is everything in every woman and man that is beautiful and soft.

Photo Credit: My lovely boyfriend Marc

While looking back at the process of making this song, I relied heavily on what the poems had painted for me in my mind. I had mentioned previously about the imagery used in "The Shark" and I found that (whether it is because of the angle that I am portraying these poems in or if it is simply a response to the imagery gathered throughout the lines) I imagined "The Shark" as a deep blue, almost grey colour. Not just the shark described in the poem, but all of the surroundings. With Jellyfish something very similar popped into my head but also with the change of the Jellyfish being pink and the water around it being a deep pinkish purple, and if blue only the most faint clear blue imaginable.

What I have taken from this is not that I see masculinity as a more dark way of being, but rather a lesser known to me. Being a woman with enough femininity that I once had unicorns bordering my walls as a child, I am no stranger to pink, even if I am still very far away from being considered "girly". I believe that my reflections of the poem are not so much a bias that I would like to inflict on them, but rather just a range of familiarity. In the song, you will hear that there is less mention of the Shark than the Jellyfish (the Shark being the lower flatter tones and the Jellyfish being the whimsical fun tunes). Also, the whimsical tunes were what kept appearing in my head, no matter how hard I had tried to achieve the Shark.

There is a short melody that I had attempted to incorporate within the song recurring between different notes to show a deeper connection between man and woman, a connection that is never talked about but is always there. We are all humans, as sharks and jellyfish are both sea creatures. We can argue of the differences all day long, but we can also argue the similarities in how we feel, perceive, etc. It is all but a matter of how you choose to look at it.

I am very happy with my decision to focus on the connection between the two poems instead of looking for the difference between them. It has helped me a great deal with unlocking a part of my understanding, or rather knowing where I lack in understanding, to move forward with my violin playing and thoughtfulness.

Photo Taken by Rachael Cousins

My main goal during this project was to not only begin playing the violin again after much too long of a break, but to also to really think about the pressures that men undergo each day that are not always mentioned. As I had stated before, I am very familiar with the feminine side of things, what is to be expected of women, but I will never be able to fully understand what men go through on similar issues. This song represents the struggles of both sides, and I hope also celebrates the strength of each gender. May we all have a little bit of Shark and Jellyfish in each of us.

Enjoy the Song!

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