The Myth of Music Poem Summary Notes and Analysis by Rachel M. Harper in English


‘The Myth of Music’ is a poem written by Rachel M. Harper. It is a poem that employs musical jargon to explore familial bonds.

About the Poet:

Rachel M. Harper is an eminent author and screenwriter. ‘Brass Ankle Blues’, her first novel, was selected as a Target Breakout Book. Famous works of her thus include ‘Brass Ankle Blues’, ‘This Side of Providence’, and ‘Bluffing on a Queen’s Playground’.


This poem is divided into 3 stanzas with lines of consistent length. Written in free verse, it does not follow a rhyme scheme. 

Stanza 1:

If music can be passed on 
like brown eyes or a strong 
left hook, this melody 
is my inheritance, lineage traced 
through a title track, 
displayed on an album cover 
that you pin to the wall 
as art, oral history taught 
on a record player, the lessons 
sealed into the grooves like fact. 
This is the only myth I know. 
I sit on the hardwood 
floors of a damp November, 
my brother dealing cards 
from an incomplete deck, 
and I don't realize that this 
moment is the definition 
of family, collective memory 
cut in rough-textured tones, 
the voice of a horn so familiar 
I don't know I'm listening, 
Don't know I'm singing, 
a child's improvisation 
of Giant Steps or Impressions
songs without lyrics 
can still be sung.

The poem begins with the persona addressing their father.  They state that if music can be passed along, then that would be their inheritance, a mark of their lineage from title track to album cover. This, they claim, is the only myth they know and call it ‘oral history’ as well. 

In November, the persona sees their brother dealing a deck of cards and state how that was the definition of what a family was. This memory is like a song to the persona, all too familiar and can be sung like ‘Giant Steps’ and ‘Impressions’- even without words.

Stanza 2:

In six months, when my mother 
is 2,000 miles away, deciding 
if she wants to come home, 
I will have forgotten 
this moment, the security 
of her footsteps, the warmth 
of a radiator on my back, and you 
present in the sound of typing 
your own accompaniment, 
multiphonics disguised as chords
in a distant room, speakers set 
on high to fill the whole house 
with your spirit, your call 
as a declaration of love.

The persona playing cards with her brother does not realise that in six months, her mother will be very far away, pondering whether or not to return home. By then, the persona would have forgotten the memories shared with their mother and the security they felt in her presence. High music is said here to be the spirit of the persona’s mother, a ‘declaration of love’.

Stanza 3:

But the music will remain. 
The timeless notes of jazz 
too personal to play out loud, 
stay locked in the rhythm 
of my childhood, memories fading 
like the words of a lullaby, 
come to life in a saxophone's blow. 
They lie when they say 
music is universal—this is my song, 
the notes like fingerprints 
as delicate as breath. 
I will not share this air 
with anyone 
but you.

Unlike the persona’s mother, the music will remain with the persona. The jazz continues staying with them from childhood. Even as memories fade, the saxophone’s music stays on. The poem ends with the persona rejecting the notion that music is universal and asserts that it belongs only to themselves and ‘you’, their father. 


This is a beautiful poem. It sheds light on the power of music, how even when memories and family all leave, it stays on.