“The Forest - An Interpretation of Dante's Allegorical Forest in "Inferno"”
Epics Across Eras - Storytelling For the Modern World
Music changed forever the day DJ Kool Herc hosted his historic block party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in 1973. Hip hop was born, and it would become the storytelling device for a generation of black youths, a medium through which to express the pain and struggles of life and the nature of humanity itself. Many people's stories have been told through hip hop’s lens. Stories of love and loss, druggies and gangsters, and life and death backdropped by the crumbling streets and broken homes of many urban black communities. And through these stories black americans across the nation were able to discover themselves while the rest of the country turned its back on them. Kendrick Lamar rapped through the beauty and the pain of growing up in Compton, and millions of people across the nation saw themselves in his story. Artists like Black Though and Common leverage their experiences politically, holding a mirror up to the public and asking them to look at themselves through their art. And supporting it all: hip hop, a medium connected to the long tradition of public storytelling.
The texts we have read in Literature Humanities served this purpose for me as well. Reading through works like The Iliad and Inferno, I was able to discover not only the author's worldview, but my own. Seeing with the eyes of Homer and Dante allowed me to put many things about life in perspective and truly helped me understand the vastness of the human experience.
So, for my Core Reflection, I wanted to synthesize these two written mediums into one piece. I, along with the incredibly talented Jackie Marchal, created a hip hop song based on the first Canto of Dante's Inferno, the allegorical forest. I focused intently on the themes of disorientation and helplessness that Dante feels as he attempts to climb the hill to become a more just person.When writing the lyrics, I attempted to capture stylistic choices from Dante as well as thematic choices. For example, throughout the majority of the two verses I utilize Dante's rhymie scheme: the terza rima. Sonically we wanted to capture the ominous and desolate emotions Dante evoked in his description of "the savage forest, dense and difficult/which even in recall renews my fear."
Lyrics: Nigel Telman
Keyboard: Jackie Marchal
Bass: Nigel Telman
Production: Jackie Marchal
About the Scholars: Nigel Telman and Jackie Marchal
Nigel Telman, class of 2021, is pursuing Computer Science and English in Columbia College. He hopes that, through his submission, he has illustrated the timeless quality of music and words and their ability to connect with us across cultures. We may not have the same life, but our experiences on this earth inextricably link us.
Jackie Marchal is a member of the Columbia College class of 2022. She plans on studying Music at Columbia, and is a singer, songwriter, and producer. For the Dante inspired song ‘The Forest,’ Jackie produced the track and recorded Nigel in her dorm.