I don’t think the world around us pays enough attention to music. Music, if executed the “right way” (I use this term lightly) can carry you in a poetic dissertation. It invites you to compose a familiar yet unfamiliar movie in your head or allows you to paintbrush mental memories to external masterpieces.
In essence, music has the uncanny ability to connect you to everything you view and deem as art. It evokes every sense and enhances every emotion. More importantly, it connects you to a culture you didn’t know you belonged in.
For as long as I can recall, I have been tied to the art of music. I remember middle-school-me taking on out-of-range and unequipped solos in front of the small congregation of my baptist church. Or writing a list of a “Cat in the Hat” type rhyme words to use for the amateur songs I would perform with a broomstick and dimmed lights.
I distinctly remember learning two chords on the piano and feeling like Alica Keys. I fell in love with music, hard. And it wasn’t the singing part that could satisfy me anymore. I began to take interest in how beats are made, how to play instruments, how to write better lyrics. Today I will be talking about the process of creating music, the personal journey music takes us through, and its remarkable ability to synchronize universal societies.
I believe music is one of the most underrated popular creations. It’s an enjoyable asset; it sets the tone in social settings and keeps up an intended mood. However, underneath the surface of these songs are complex and individually styled techniques that distinguish each one from the next. The creation of music contains at least three major components: the instruments or beat being used, the writing of lyrics, and mixing and mastering. Just a single fine-tune during any of these stages can create a completely different and unique sound.
The instrumental carries a steady and energizing drive throughout the song. Whether strings such as guitar or violin are chosen to give a light and intimate feeling or heavy beat pads are used to give a more hardened tone, the crafted selection of instruments sets the color of a song or determines the story’s setting.
To me, the instrumental is just as important as the words. They determine exactly how you are visualizing this specific piece in your head. Don’t underestimate the power of an instrumental, as they are the ones who stage the lyrics and lead the trajectory of the entire song.
Next, you have the lyrics of the song or the plot of your story. Artists often find themselves writing memoirs of what they have experienced or witnessed in their current life. A lyricist’s ability to fit such momentous and emotional events into three ungenerous minutes is truly remarkable. At this stage, we witness the vulnerability of an artist. The privilege of their allowing us to enter the doors of their inner thoughts and insecurities is both admirable and valiant.
Often when writing songs I find myself writing primarily because I’m trying to unravel the tangled thoughts that are scattered in my head. I am trying to physically define the emotion I am feeling. This adds to why music is a cathartic relief for many, including listeners. Some artists take you on a passage of written thoughts, and as they try to navigate whatever it is they are searching for, so are you. To me, lyrics are the holistic healers. They make sure you aren’t cluttering your mind but instead confronting it. Through lyrics, we are subconsciously reaching restoration and emotional balance.
Last but not least are the mixing and mastering, or finishing touches, of your art piece. This can be adding layered harmonies or adlibs, checking your levels or taking away certain elements that don’t please you, to give examples. Similar to writing, this is where you ensure your song flows and is not segmented; here, artists undergo the red-inked revision stage, correcting any last mistakes before its lamination. Mixing and mastering is where you turn your personal story into a universal story. One where every person can understand without receiving background information or recalled knowledge. Now this is an exceptionally condensed version of how songs are created, as they are often sparked by inspiration and heavy patience, as art generally is.
Now listen to your favorite song or one you admire. If you can’t think of one try “Good Days” by SZA. Close your eyes and bring your senses to attention and observation. Take notice of how the instruments creep in the beginning and gradually rise to a climax and then a down point. Notice the areas where the music drops, tone shifts or rhythm changes. Why do you think this was done at this specific moment? Pay heed to the lyrics in the song and consider what story the artist is trying to create. Commend their use of imagery, play on words, or other rhetorical devices they rilliantly performed. Individualize the song to your emotions and/or experiences. How does the song make you feel? Some people listen to music just to pass time or ease an ongoing environment; however, you can only fully understand the true art of music once you sit down and examine it as you do with poems, writings or art.
I always ponder the unfathomable question: Can you live without music? I am intrigued at how hesitant I am to still give a clear response.
One way I can explain living without music is by comparing it to that of a caged bird, the anticipation of searching for what’s unknown only to find yourself trapped in your own cage or your own mind. Through music, sometimes we don’t realize we are seeking some aspect of who we are. We are trying to give internal and unexplainable thoughts external and concrete existence. Similar to other forms of art, music can take your mind through a critical stage of processing and eventually healing. If music came to an end, I don’t believe I would ever be able to truly heal. Without both writing and listening to this art, I wouldn’t be able to give the scary monsters under my bed a name. Or maybe I wouldn’t be brave enough to even try.
Not only does music acknowledge your state of being, it reminds you that you are not alone. As a society, we believe our problems are personalized or confined to our bodies. Music connects us to a multitude of people without our even realizing it. This is why you and a roomful of others cry when you hear your friend sing “Jealous” by Labrinth, or when you go to a concert, your energy feels so in sync it begins to feel surreal.
Music reminds us that there’s another person who’s going through exactly what you are. It transfers the feeling of isolation to a sense of belonging or newfound normalization. Our culture is unknowingly built on the universal love of music. It is the one thing we don’t stir conflict over. Music by nature has the power to form bridges where we believed fires resided. It touches our soul; makes us feel things and empathize with others in ways we originally would not have, and that’s the beauty of it.
Music is that one consistent confidant that understands all your emotions. It allows you to authentically express who you are or how you feel. It changes you and others around you. Music makes you feel things and only when you feel things are you able to heal them. So the next time, you’re listening to some good tunes… notice the art of it.