Eardrum is a book of poems and prose meditations about music. It developed, the author says, out of fascination with an art-form that is both strange and intimate: one, moreover, that poses a parallel set of questions to those raised by poetry – about the nature of the emotion it incorporates, the persistence of its tropes, and the tension between the demands of structure, and the desire to gesture beyond them. Eardrum moves across a wider range of genres than books about music normally do: from Ariana Grande at Manchester to the man who plays Hornsby Fountain in his Wellington boots; from the way music has been used to inspire terror, to the dilemmas around closure in classical form. Together with a substantial body of free-verse poems, there is a section of short pieces – Langford is also an aphorist – and a collection of prose meditations: on broad-ranging aspects of both classical and rock, and on the stubborn differences between ears tuned to rock, and those tuned to jazz. Eardrum should delight anyone who enjoys good writing about an art-form that is proverbially difficult to write about.
“Martin Langford’s Eardrum is entirely about music. It is immediately engaging (at least to me) but unusually difficult to write about because one is continuously breaking off one’s own composition to argue with some specific point or to follow another one further. This usually doesn’t happen with books of poetry where a critic is able to retain a certain personal distance from what a poem wants to say about society or a tree, or wants to do in some experiment with form or language.”
MARTIN DUWELL, Australian Poetry Review