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Iambic Architecture OR Dee DUM Dee DUM Dee DUM Dee DUm Dee DUM.

September 25, 2014


Today’s lecture venue is wonderful is a number of respects.  It’s roomy, comfortable, and acoustically efficient.  The lights work, and the console is generally well equipped.  There’s only one technology that doesn’t completely work and that’s the steps that lead you down the raked seating.

Now steps are a fairly early idea.  We can comfortably say that they are have been with us for millennia.  As a means of enabling human beings to climb up the interior of buildings or descend into burial vaults with a moderate degree of convenience they’re a pretty familiar success.

But the lecture theatre I’ll be in today is different.  These steps have been designed by a brilliant architect with a bold new take on the whole “steps” concept.  It’s just the fault of the rest of us that we can’t keep up with their sense of vision.

These steps are iambic.  They alternate long and short paces, with the stress on the second longer step.  You proceed down the steps going Dee DUM Dee DUM Dee DUM Dee DUM Dee DUM.  It’s a heartbeat.

It’s not, unfortunately, a good way of walking.  You can skip down these steps, if you time things right – or you can limp down them.  Or you can fall down them.  What you can’t do is walk down them.  At the beginning of term, falling down the steps seems to be a particularly popular choice.  The human brain, it seems, is hard-wired to expect steps of identical widths.  We go and up a great many flights of steps before we reach young adulthood and these long short alternating steps scramble all our intuitive expectations.  Our ascending and descending gait is frustrated – our feet meet empty air and so we fall.

This lecture theatre has taught me something about iambic verse.  It has taught me that iambic verse is unsuited to pedestrian imagery.  Perhaps its the word “foot” that confuses.  Despite the iambic line being made of “feet” you can’t actually walk to that rhythm.  Iambic verse does not really proceed at a stately “pace” at all.  It pulsates.  It’s a human organ – or rather it is the human heart itself pumping away.  But it’s not locomotive in a crude topographic sense and it can’t take you from A to B – rather it reminds you of the rhythm necessary and required for the prolongation of life itself.

Iambic feet do not “walk”, I’ve decided.  And I’ve seen the bodies lying at the “foot” of the lecture theatre to prove it.


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  1. NIck Barnes permalink

    Maybe you’re doing it wrong. Try treating them as dactyls.

  2. Reblogged this on conradbrunstrom and commented:

    Because we’re back where we belong

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