Monday, January 29th, 2018...5:17 amElizabeth

“Anaphora” In Music

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Anaphora: A rhetorical *figure of repetition in which the same word or phrase is repeated in (and usually at the beginning of) successive lines, clauses, or sentences.

I decided to use the song “Every Breath You Take” by The Police as an example of anaphora. When I first looked at this song to see if it would be a valid example of anaphora I immediately pulled out these first two stanzas

“Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you
Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you”
     I knew right away by the repetition of the same word, “every”, in the beginning of each four lines that it was a solid example of anaphora. Therefore, if you see a word (or phrase) such as “every”, for example, repeated in consecutive lines it is anaphora.
     So what? Why is the word “every” repeated consecutively in this song? What does the repetition of this word/phrase do to the piece as a whole? What is the purpose?
      When I visually looked over the lyrics to consider the song as an example of anaphora I read the piece in a very monotone voice. The effect of reading this song in a monotone voice made it harder to understand the purpose of the repeated word “every” because it tended to sound the same. I then listened to the song out loud to see if I could uncover the ‘purpose’. As I was listening I paid close attention to the voice of the singer. I realized that each time he sang the lines containing the word “every” he did so in a slightly different tone. By singing each line with a slightly different tone, it brought so much more depth to the piece and made it sound like “every” had a completely different meaning each time. Ultimately, the way you read something or how you say it can give a word/phrase a negative or positive connotation and change your perspective on the piece.
     When looking at “Every Breath You Take” with a lens of anaphora, I realized the word “every” has multiple layers, or ways to approach it, which I originally did not put in to perspective. When you read or listen to a piece of art out loud and use different tones it helps to make sense of the piece and uncover meanings you might not have seen previously.
      On a side note, remember in class when we read “Poetry (1967)” by Marianne Moore and we each read a line in a slightly different tone? Well, in doing so we were able to realize the many different layers, both implicit and explicit, the poem had to offer.
Image result for meme for anaphora in songs
Lyrics cited:
Image cited:


  • I think that you made a really good comparison between the way that you read a text with anaphora verses the way that a singer might sing a song with anaphora. The comparison that you made by saying that the singer sang the word “every” in a different way at the beginning of all the lines made me think about the different ways that you could actually sing every. After listening to the song, I realized that he focused on emphasizing different syllables in the word “every” so that sometimes you couldn’t even really hear the beginning of the word. Tying this into what we did in class with one of the Elizabeth Bishop poems, I think that creates a fantastic point because not everyone will read the poem or sing the lyrics the same. I think that it is the different ways that everyone does read the poems or sing the lyrics that gives them different meanings.

  • I like how you point out that pronunciation and tone of words really has an effect on the meaning of the overall piece. I think anaphora is a great way to illustrate this point, due to the nature of the term. When you think of repetition, you automatically think of “sameness”. If I repeat a request, for instance, in our minds we translate it as me asking for the same thing, over and over. In poetry or music though (and I suppose some conversational usages, probably), repetition doesn’t necessarily lead to the same meaning. It is interesting how anaphora can simultaneously create emphasis and a pattern, as well as drawing a contrast between meanings of the same words or phrases.

  • Because songs typically contain a chorus that is repeated throughout the song, the likelihood of finding anaphora in a song is pretty high. I often find that the more repetition, the more likely a song will get stuck in my head. At the moment, the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams has been stuck in my head.
    “(Because I’m happy)
    Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
    (Because I’m happy)
    Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
    (Because I’m happy)
    Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
    (Because I’m happy)
    Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do”
    Like Elizabeth stated, when I read the lyrics, I found my voice being quite monotone and almost sucking the life, or in this case happiness, out of the song. Anaphora can be found at the beginning of every other line of the chorus. The song repeats the phrase “Because I’m happy” every odd numbered line and every even numbered line, it starts with “Clap along if you feel…”. Using anaphora here really emphasizes that the singer clearly is happy, and the repetition of clapping urges the listener to actually clap along to the beat. Anaphora places an emphasis on certain phrases or words and in the case of this song it’s effective because I do find myself wanting to clap along to the beat and be happy like it suggests.

    Lyrics cited:

  •   Professor Seiler
    February 5th, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    Elizabeth–great example and reading (and meme!), and it’s lovely to see all the comments here. I wonder how your work on “anaphora” — in all its expansive possibilities — might inform your reading of Bishop’s wondrous poem “Anaphora.” Nice start to the blog!

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