Thursday, February 6, 2014

Music and Lyrics

One of the greatest lines ever written is Every Life has a Story. Five short words which sums up an absolute truth. Not just the lives of those noted in the history books, on film, or printed on a brass plaque.
The phrase is the voiceover on the Biography Channel, which I love to watch. When stories unfold one can see the thread along which a dream travels. Determination making anything seem possible. It is this which draws me in to books, newspapers, blogs, tweets, Facebook, Pinterest, music, and social events. I love a good story. Chances are if one listens long enough, one will hear several.

Someone recently posed the question on a writer’s blog, “How do you rejuvenate yourself when your creative juices are depleted?” My immediate response, listen to music. Ironically the next day a friend asked, “Do you listen to the lyrics? I don’t. I have no idea what they are saying. I just listen to the music.” I almost keeled over. My life generally functions in absolute silence or in lyrical saturation.

Pick one artist, right now… Eminem, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Blake Shelton, Stevie Wonder, Three Dog Night, Bruno Mars, Pink, Tony Bennet, Amy Winehouse, One Republic, Metallica, Mary Chapin Carpenter or Justin Timberlake. We know these people, not just for their antics, but for their ability to convey intense emotion in the story that they sing. We hear a performers name and immediately feelings of like or dislike, happy or sad, run through us. If we don’t sing along, we push the button, turn the station. A song can remind us of when we were ten years old, first dates, high school prom, vacation, a smell, weddings, birth.

I would say that music is primal. Like sight and smell, it is trigger happy.

In thinking of how a lyricist moves through the arc of a story in three to four minutes, I began to understand the need to distill images and emotions with similar brevity. Whether blogging or writing a novel, extra is distracting. Around the time that developing this skill became my OCD, I attended a workshop on self-branding and social media. As far as I can tell, Twitter is the social media of brevity. I, who am wordy, tweet off and on throughout the day to practice.

I don’t want to follow everybody on Twitter. So, I go hunting with discretion. I found Andy Roddick (tennis player, sports commentator, married to Brooklyn Decker, seriously opinionated, very intelligent). Yesterday he wrote, “When is One Direction gonna go in five?” If my math skills are up to par it only took fifty three characters to express very clearly his opinion.

But how does a salmon swim upriver? I haven’t written a blog in forever, in part because my life has been fraught with big experiences and these occupy a great deal of thought and emotion which cannot be neatly packaged, let alone distilled into 140 characters including hash tags. My brain feels like it has been broken down into boxes with lids neatly labeled: “For Later,” “Deadline,” “Grief,” “Job,” “Feet,” “Social Media,” “For $#@% Sake!”

So I do what I always do in these situations, look for something to focus on while my brain quietly meanders through the maze of containers, taking lids off and sifting through, bit by bit, one by one. All this occurs in the background while I keep my hands busy typing, knitting, hugging, kneading bread, weeding, chopping… even my hands are wordy!

I return to lyricism and biographies. They are hand in glove. The words to a song rarely focus on inanimate objects or emotionless voids. I actually looked for examples, because every good writer enjoys research. The song I am a rock by Simon and Garfunkel came to mind, but that is all about despair and isolation. I searched Water on YouTube and found a perky little song by Brad Paisley about swimming holes, courage, and bikini’s. A similar search for Purple pulled up a list having mostly to do with drug induced states. A similar search for Void directed me to a band with a song entitled, Who Are You. After listening to two screeching minutes of it, I found myself thinking, “I don’t care.” I pushed the stop button.

As is true with literature, music induces discussion. Little Mac and I were in the car the other day and had a wonderful conversation trying to discern the dividing line between Hip Hop and Rap. That line is becoming more blurry to both of us. As we pulled into the driveway, the conversation had become how we had surprised each other. While I know he is a great lover of music, I had no idea his repertoire was so broad and so emotionally directed. He was shocked to find out that I love Eminem!

This conversation reminded me of when our children were young and how we would crank the radio up after dinner and dance with them. Our Fluffball chose Elvis Presley’s A Little More Satisfaction over and over, while Little Mac danced to whomever. It was him who brought Bruno Mars, The Lazy Song, to our attention when he was a boy of eight. Of course we reached a place where our dancing was too embarrassing for our kids to endure. There were a couple of years where they pleaded with us to NEVER dance in public. Fortunately, enough time has passed that whether they think we are awful or not, we find ourselves dancing in the kitchen again.

I’ve long believed that the elderly are not hard of hearing, they are just replaying a lifetime of memories in their heads, while staring off into the distance. When I am old and grey, I will see our family singing and dancing in front of my eyes, humming Don't Blink. 
Thanks for reading!