Dylan's Visions of Sin by Christopher Ricks

By Christopher Ricks

'I reflect on myself a poet first and a musician second' 'It ain't the melodies that're very important guy, it's the words' there isn't any scarcity of books approximately Bob Dylan. This one, although, is exclusive in its strategy and the virtuosity of its execution. Ricks examines Dylan's songs in the course of the biblical thoughts of the seven lethal Sins, the 4 cardinal Virtues and the 3 Heavenly Graces. He does so with what one critic has defined as 'an finally impossible to resist mix of laser-like intelligence with a fan's exuberant idolatry'.

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Extra resources for Dylan's Visions of Sin

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And moreover they are all personified as divine beings, and have wives, and histories, and are the subjects of elaborate pictures and apparently also of fanciful poems. This all points to a very long period of development, and to a considerable antiquity in the established system; for even people who luxuriate in imagery and fancifulness like the Indians, do not attribute divine qualities to a scheme which they themselves have only devised in comparatively recent times. The whole story also points to a considerable feeling for the organisation of artistic material, but it is recorded that the Indians have little feeling for anything like a tonic, or for relative degrees of importance in the notes that compose the scale; and there seems little restriction as to which note in the scale may be used for the final close.

The mediant (as E in C) chiefly as the defining note for major or minor mode ; the subdominant (as F in C) as a subordinate centre of contrast in the harmonical system of design, and as the sensitive downward tending leading note to that very important note the third of the final chord in the cadence. The leading note (as B in the key of C) had a melodic function in strengthening the cadence, and served as the major third of the dominant chord ; the supertonic (as D in the key of C) served as fifth of the dominant chord, and as the basis of the harmony which stands in the same relation to the dominant of the key as that stands to its tonic.

So if in a ceremony which took place in the first moon the pentatonic series began on C, the hymn would be sung a semitone higher each successive moon, till at a ceremony in the twelfth moon it would begin on B, a seventh higher than the first; and then at the next performance the hymn would drop a whole major seventh, and be sung in notes belonging to the scale of C again. To be hedged in with such conditions as these cannot be expected to be encouraging to art, and it is not to be wondered at that the Chinese system is the most crudely backward and incapable of development of any of the great melodic systems.

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