Often during the process of writing and producing a song, I step back for a moment to analyze the construction, to see if the song is well-developed. To achieve this, I use what I call “the Frankenstein method”, in which I visualize certain aspects of the song in relation to the human body. For example, in my mind’s eye, I equate the melody (the top line) to the eyes, the windows of the soul. I then see the chord progression as the heart and mid-section of my imaginary torso. Finally, I compare the bass line, rhythm and foundation of my song, to the legs of my creation – considering whether these perspectives are harmonically strong and stable enough to support my fantasy life form. Yes – it all does sound rather Frankensteinian, doesn’t it?! But this somewhat unusual approach, on innumerable occasions, has helped me study with defined clarity, the working mechanics of a song. By doing this, I gain a glimpse of the universal in the particular. It’s my way of freeing the imagination to see the song as organic and natural – a living thing. That doesn’t mean that every time I finish a tune in my laboratory (Oh, sorry, I mean my studio), I cry out to the heavens, “It’s alive! It’s alive!”, but if truth be told, the feeling of accomplishment is something akin to that.
I admire the writing and thought of 19th-Century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, who believed music to be the highest art form. He had a most intriguing outlook on music. He held true that music articulates the inner-nature of all things. He wrote, “The ground-bass is in harmony what inorganic nature, the crudest mass on which everything rests and from which everything originates and develops, is in the world. Further, in the whole range of notes that produce the harmony between the bass and the leading voice singing the melody, I recognized the whole graduation of the ideas in which the will objectifies itself ….” He adds, “Finally, in the melody, in the high, singing, principle voice, leading the whole and progressing with unrestrained freedom, in the uninterrupted significant connection of one thought from beginning to end, and expressing a whole, I recognize the highest grade of the will’s objectification, the intellectual life and endeavors of man.” Wagner also believed music to be strongly connected with the true nature of all things in the world when he wrote, “Instruments represent the primal organs of Creation and Nature; their expression can never be clearly defined and formulated since they convey the primal feelings as they first issued forth from the chaos of the Creation; perhaps even before there was any human heart to hear and feel.” I find it thrilling and fascinating to think that the essence of music is none of man’s doing, that it was built into the world long before we arrived. Pythagoras was the first to show that the basic intervals on which Western music is constructed inhere in the world, independently of man. To demonstrate this, he most famously plucked a string to sound a note, then halved the length of the string and showed that plucking it produced the same note an octave higher.
Every time I attempt to write a song, I try to allow my gut instincts and raw emotions to lead the way. It amazes me that, behind this simple human outpouring of expression – this humble communication of sound – lies a complex and profound mathematical mystery born of nature herself. Amazing too, that when we hear a song that we like, we, in general, don’t know why we like it – we just do. We feel it! It’s as though it was just meant to be, inherited somewhere deep within our human nature.
And so to finish: Thank you Mary Shelley, for writing your masterpiece – and for inspiring me to look at my songs-in-progress from within a weird and wonderful framework, hopefully enabling me to animate some little melodic monsters of my own.
“Feel is all”
Thanks for stopping by.