Beginning from the End: Strategies of Composition in Lyrical Improvisation with End Rhyme


This essay examines the basic principles of constructing improvised verses with end rhyme in three contemporary cultures: mandinadhes, Mallorcan gloses, and Finnish freestyle rap. This study is based on ethnographic interviews, in which improvisers analyze their methods of composition. This knowledge is complemented by a textual analysis of examples of performances in the given traditions. Sykäri shows that competent improvisers master complex cognitive methods when they create their lines that end with the poetic device of end rhyme, and in particular when they structure the discourse so that the strong arguments are situated at the end of the structural unit of composition. This “reversed” method witnesses a tendency to use parallel phonic patterns in a way that is largely the opposite of those employed with semantic (or canonical) parallelism.



Fig. 1. The glosadors Mateu Matas “Xurí” performing at a glosada-event, January 23, 2015.

Photo: Venla Sykäri.

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