Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Abstract and concrete

The initial letters technique (ILT) that I used recently on Vassar Millar's poem, Morning Person, worked well with that piece. I think this was because the poem is quite 'concrete' in the sense that there are lots of images throughout, and it's all very active. 

This may be the reason ILT works well with playscripts. A few playscripts have speeches that are fairly abstract, but for the most part, dialogue in plays is more active and is about specific things and events.

I've learned several chunks of the Book of Ephesians over the years, and thought I'd try and finish off the book (over the next several years probably). I found that there were several verses at the beginning of chapter three that I'd never learned. I'm not sure why. 

So I tried the ILT on those verses yesterday. Things didn't go nearly so well.  

I read through the section several times. It didn't seem to be sticking in any sense. In fact it wasn't an easy section to understand straight away at all. Paul's sentences tend to go on at length, and though I had broken down the text into shorter lines, it was still hard to grasp. 

I sat down and wrote out the initial letters. After a few attempts I was able to read back from the code, but as soon as I put the code away the text became a kind of blur. Once I'd done a few other things with the day, there was almost nothing in my head of what I'd been working on. 

Today I came back to it, and it was like starting from scratch. I suspect that because the text is quite abstract, as a lot of the epistles can be, there aren't many hooks to hang your memory hat on. I don't mean that the text is obscure, but just that it's not about everyday things you can easily visualize. 

Nelson Dellis
Having understood that, I knuckled down and did more old style work on it, and it became to stick.

Slowly. I actually started with a couple of lines from the end of the text, and once those were holding, worked backwards line by line. I'd been getting stuck trying to start at the beginning for some reason. I sometimes find the same thing happens with music. Instead of learning the opening bars, as you'd expect to do, I go to the end and learn a few bars there, and then learn the bars in front of those. This means I already know the 'goal' of the piece, how the climax works. As each new section is added I have a better sense of where I'm going.

Nelson Dellis has a video on You Tube in which he memorizes the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. He doesn't use the ILT approach, as he does in another video, and I think the reason is that the Declaration has the same kind of language Paul uses in Ephesians. It's abstract language:
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Hardly a concrete thing in sight. 

Dellis takes a double approach. First he divides the paragraph into eleven short sections, takes a map of the USA and finds eleven cities in a rough pattern. These cities each have a significant image connected to them (such as the Liberty Bell in Boston). This map becomes his pathway through the paragraph. 

But on top of this he links the significant things with other images, connecting them to the DOI's words, and also uses homonyms (which and witch) so that he has images even for the words that are likely to be forgotten. This is something I've often done myself  in the past when I'm likely to forget important little words. 

It may seem like a lot of work for 71 words, but the time spent is necessary to ensure the brain keeps the information.  

His video is worth a look. It's just over thirteen minutes long. 

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