Eternal Poet

Personification of Songwriting

– by Paul Jeremy Matta, Copyright 2009

“Raise up a child in the way they should go and they won’t depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

See a Song as a Person

A song is like a person. It cannot be what it is not. You can’t be someone you’re not except your name. Accept your name. Your place. Your time. Your age. A song is confined within the borders of its skin. As you write a song, you build a person or living being. Its duration of life is as long at its length of time. Its existence is either recorded and unchangeable or if played live is an automatic extension of your being. You are always the parent of your song. In a sense, songs are living creatures. Your living creation can heal, kill, motivate, etc. What you put into your song, or how you raise your song like a parent raises a child is the way it will grow. Giving it a personality so to speak is what others will receive from it. It grows up with a message. That message is sometimes a memory or it is an ideal state of reality.

Remember that a song is like a person, in the sense, it can’t be what it’s not. Ideally speaking the song doesn’t have free will. Once a song is jettisoned into a love song then it goes into the category of love songs. Once a pop driven song, then always a pop driven song. Different parents, means different interpretation. Cover songs for instance are from foster parents. Still, let’s stick to the basic concept that a song is like a person. We can argue many facets, declarations opposing this idea of a song as a person so let’s just pretend a song to be a being. To be your lovely creature. To be a communicative being.

Raise a Song to be Like You

Obviously, a song in its early drafts is a baby. Once epiphany strikes in the mind and artist is inspired to write a song, then that song has a right to life. We should not abort songs. At least release a part of it into sound. Sound of course being an audible element of birth. Part of being artist as parent is to be intentional about caring for the direction to where and how a song should grow. You’re in charge of it’s environment. Childhood development. A few things to be aware of is “What is it you’re trying to say? What’s your message? Why bring a song into existence, into a being, if it has no purpose? Give purposeful meaning to your creations. Such intention was given to you by God.

It is written in Samuel 16 verse 7 “but the Lord looks at the heart…” And so, audience will look at the heart of your song just as God looks at our hearts. Your song has a heart. It has life. Song is not a composition of verse, syllables, disciplined tones, attractive wavelengths, hooks, but it is a being. To feed the heart of a song is to feed song’s future. Be intentional about affection for a song. Song’s heartbeat is its existence. In one sense, the time signature is its heartbeat. You play it. Sing it. It exists with your breath. You are the first to pour life into it. After a song is heard its as if someone has died. And all you can do is recall the melody, or particular line that impacted you. That’s if it did. Some songs fail at initializing lasting impact.

It’s almost as if, the only time a song exists is when it is heard. Songs are beings. They communicate to internal magnetisms. To souls. Inner perceptions. Let’s look at the heart of a song. Its motive. Emotion. Honesty. In other words, after audience listens to your song, which is actually encountering your song; which is also engaging your song; thereafter, what impressionable memory will remain with audience? Is it memorable? How is its heart distinguishable from other melodic beings?

Songs speak and are not spoken to. Yes songs may be interpreted differently by people, but we must also accept that songs can also speak differently to others. There’s a beauty to the heart. There’s a freedom to the heart. The beauty and freedom of the heart is that it can love others more and love others less. You can love a song. But how much does it love you? Reciprocation of adoration doesn’t rise from examination. Examination of a song is different than dissecting a painting. Maybe you don’t care to know how well a song loves its audience. Just know that a song has a “voice”. Songs speak from their heart.

Songs written by artists are not created from nothing. Songs written by artists are created from chaos. Only God can create from nothing. You must use sounds available to you. You’re limited. We create from the chaos of molecular sounds, rhymes, emotions (which are extremely chaotic at times), etc. God has blessed us with the gift of how we want to build a song. A song can be verse/chorus/verse/chorus. Or it can’t. We’ll get to structures later. Now the focus is about keeping songs as similar creatures. Our ears are accustomed to hearing a song’s look. Digestible and relational 15 minute songs are exceptions to acceptance. Top 40 hits are nowhere close to 15 minutes. Songs that drag on and on, strain purpose, can become burdensome to the listener. Rock bands have written such lengthy songs and had much success. But we’re strictly sticking to the subject of beginner songwriters and 3 to 4 minute songs.

The structure of a song is the structure of its body. Certain limbs, and look of a song really makes a difference to how audience sees it. If song is missing a torso, but has limbs legs and a head, then you’re song is not only contorted visually, but it can be considered a monster. Monsters scare people. We need beauty. Beauty attracts eyes. And a beautiful song will attract listeners.

Spiritual Truths in Spiritual Words

Earlier we discussed that each song holds purpose. Some express anger, speak love, or simply speaks for audiences whom encounter walls when it comes to expressing themselves. Songwriters are ambassadors. Particularly singer-songwriters are representatives for the speechless, are lovers for the heartless, poets for the unpoetic, etc. Singer songwriters intertwine imagination and music to create melody, lyrics and eventually a tune. They are key holders to entering the dimensional music-realm that stretches from earth to Heaven.

Furthermore, it’s important to note how songs are like children. If we scold our musical creations then they in turn will scold others. If we speak blessings into our songs then they in turn will not only be a blessing but will alter lives. What lyrical nutrients or melodic disciplines do you impart upon your song-child? Words are like food. Food motivates. We feed the song-child. To bash a song is to bash oneself. Nutritional food has lasting implications for the age of a song. Longevity depends on food. It intentionally plays a vital role to the life of the song. i love words. i’m writing words to communicate to you. In my opinion, words are essential when expressing oneself and sometimes music is essential without words. Mature music can speak for itself. Listen to Mozart’s Symphonies 40 and 41 if you don’t believe me. i’m sure you have your choice selections of music that speaks for itself. However, i’m discussing the contribution words make to a song, so i must continue to focus on that matter.

Within the average song from a singer-songwriter are words and music. Overall, communication is key to a song’s existence and acceptance by an audience. Being particular about choosing a word to fully express yourself is worth the effort to find. Sometimes thinking too much or hunting for that “right” word is a waste of time. Choosing words are up to you. Sometimes through a tedious process of selection, I’ve learned that words are born from motivation. Words come from motivation but from whence does motivation come? My thoughts lean towards something I’ve read in scripture.

The spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the spirit who is from God, that we may better understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught us by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

1 Corinthians 2:10-12

And so this echoes: “not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught us by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” If artist has the Spirit then artist should be in God’s pulse. The spiritual artist therefore, should be singing songs near and dear to God’s heart. This means that there will be extraordinary insights for that artist. Extraordinary insights lead to words that speak on such insights. Words will choose you. Not that spiritual artists can’t express themselves or that expressing themselves is so much easier to do because they have God; rather, they have words taught by the Spirit. They are able to discern which words will benefit the truth in the song. Truth in a song is it’s motive.

God is a poet. How much more will his spiritual (POETIC) words be heard if you are expressing spiritual truths? But how does artist express spiritual truths? Motivation is key to expression. And motivation begins within the truth of a song. Inspiration for a song to be born must pass through the “yes” of motivation. Motivation approves inspiration. And so this echoes: “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?” And i reflect upon that sentence to realize that emotion, or inner thoughts of man, is a direct result of inspiration. Therefore, Inspiration must pass through the doors of Motivation which in turn develops into Emotion. Emotion at a time is perceived as Expression. This permits spiritual artist to “express” spiritual truths.

Transferring Emotion into Song Expression

It can be said that Inspiration is oxygen for Emotion. And it can be said that Emotion is the foundation for Mood, Music and Melody to build a song-body. i refer to Mood, Music, and Melody as the 3Ms. We’ll discuss more about the 3Ms later. For now, let’s quickly figure how to transfer emotion into artistic expression. i say quickly because we don’t have time to read years worth of words. We all feel. We categorize those feelings into words. Sorrow. Joy. Groggy. There are many people who start sentences with “ i feel…” As artist we must confess “This is how i feel…” We must be intentional at determining what emotions we want to transfer into expression. Expression, in this case being, an audible interpretation or representation of a spiritual truth, for some, just how you feel.

Because we’re dealing in the medium of songs, we must remember that a song can only retain an acute amount of emotion. Artist should not grotesquely spill their guts onto a song’s canvas. Eminem always pours forth just a particular angle of his anger. Don’t allow your song to overstay its visit. You must leave a room at the right time. Your song has to have manners. It needs to know when to leave a room. Be selective in determining the intensity of emotion that you want to cram into a song structure.

“This is how i feel…” allows for honesty. An honest song reveals plenty of emotion. Pinpointing how you feel and combining it with music within a timed structure is song expression. Emotion is the song’s face. Likewise, the song’s reflection is seen on your face. Artist is mirror for song. If artist gets behind an instrument of choice, i.e. the acoustic guitar, then just begins to play, there will come a point when emotions will be tapped. The intentional act to play an instrument is an automatic deep drilling into the self. The power of music doesn’t ricochet off skin, instead it passes through all solid structures. It passes through you and its remnants force emotion to emerge. Music summons emotions. Allow sound to caress you. That’s just one way to begin the process of transferring emotion into song expression.

Mold Song Expression into Suggestive Song Structure

Expression’s existence is deliberate. Every time you invest time to create a song means that you’re being intentional about creation. You are deliberate. Although you may transfer your emotion into song expression, that means very little, unless you’re able to follow through on the process and sculpt it into a song structure. Songs are typical. Give us verse. Give us chorus. Sometimes we get a pre-chorus. Sometime we only get chorus. Do you really care what you get? Do you care more about what you get out of it? Artist must find the best mold to capture expression. Artist must trap meaning to share its purpose.

Again, “This is how i feel…” leads to song expression. But what do you do with song expression? It’s a vague stage. Song expression in and of itself is borderless. It’s a wad of emotions on the verge of explosion. How do we harness such thriving energy, this energetic emotion? One way is to place it into a mold. That mold will eventually be the cast of our song structure. Songs are one shape. They take the form a human. This mold is a “suggestive” song structure.

“Suggestive” implying that we set emotion onto an inertial path of song structure. This is still not song structure per se, because i have a belief that to a degree, artist can create a unique song structure. Song structure shouldn’t be a formula, though it is, and that’s okay. However, today we’re dealing with “suggestive” song structure which means creating a mold to press over emotions to develop a shape.

That shape from the mold is a suggestive song structure. Once these edited emotions are plopped from the mold they can be implemented into the body of our song. Or we can think of this process like this. Let’s imagine a hollow human being. Pour your emotions from a pitcher into a hole on the top of it’s head. Feet, knees, heart, torso, brain become filled with your emotions. This hollow human is our mold. We can peel the skin and leave just the emotion in the shape of a human. The suggestive song structure is and will be the life and movement of the final product: the song.

The 3Ms, 3Es and 3Ps

Earlier i mentioned Mood, Music and Melody and i called these the 3Ms. Now i’m going to introduce you to a few more 3s. These first three have to do with the beauty of a song at first sight. The next 3 deal with the lyrics of a song. Please meet the 3Es: Enjambment, Emphasize vowels, and Empty verbiage. These are essential to developing versatile ways of using words as lyrics. Lastly we’ll touch base with Practice, Perform, and Play. You guessed it: the 3Ps.

3Ms

Picture the 3Ms as an equilateral triangle. Mood, Music and Melody can each be designated a corner on the triangle. But we’ll need to place these on the outside of it. Something else goes in the middle. A positive to seeing the 3Ms as on the corners of an equilateral triangle is that these positions are interchangeable. The 3Ms can rotate corners thus taking the peak position as deems fit. When it comes to songwriting the “peak” position is the position of emphasis for a song. Some songs emphasize Melody; therefore, Melody will hold the peak position for those songs. Artists tend to emphasize different 3Ms.

  • Mood – attitude
  • Music – variation of tones that transcend personality of a song
  • Melody – composition of sounds with aesthetic lasting impression

3Es

It’s time to find out what goes within the triangle of the 3Ms. The hollow part of the 3Ms’ triangle is meant to be filled with lyrics. We can look at lyrics like this. Lyrics are spread evenly in the triangle no matter which of the 3Ms is at the peak position. However if we look closer at lyrics, we see that they too are in the shape of a triangle. Therefore the 3Es come into play. While Mood, Music, Melody are on the outside of the triangle, Enjambment, Emphasize vowels, Empty verbiage is each designated a corner on the inside of the triangle. The 3Es, like the 3Ms, can be rotated. The 3Es are confined within the 3Ms.

  • Enjambment – songs have lines that are sung. Most lines are nearly complete sentences. Those lines in lyrics that are not complete sentences but that break at an unusual point for emphasis then are completed within the next few measures can be categorized as enjambment.
  • Emphasize vowels – Understanding how a vocalist can sing a word can depend on the vowels in that word. Most vocal coaches will teach the proper way to vocalize a vowel within a word. Choosing the right word means you know how to emphasize vowels.
  • Empty verbiage – Only say what needs to be said. However there’s no need to take empty verbiage to the extreme. Don’t sacrifice poetic license just to have fewer words.

John Meyer sings the following line “say what you need to say/say what you need to say”, in his song Say. Stay focused on your message. Staying focused is vital for time purposes too.

3Ps

The 3s is an adolescent stage for songs. They are still trying to mature, discover themselves, understand their place in the world. We guide them and shape their lasting impressions, perceptions, decisions before they go off into the world as independent musical conquerers. Once your song has made it through the adolescent stages, then it’s important to find out what it wants to do with the rest of its life. By now, your song has its own ideas, message. It can hold its own.

There are some steps to take before releasing your song into the world. You must:

  • Practice for people
  • Perform for people
  • Play for people.

Again these are the 3Ps.

Make your songs sociable. The 3Ps are part of a larger triangle that encompasses the 3Ms, which in turn, encompasses the 3Es. This is the “triple triangle”. Not to make things complicated. But let’s say that we change the triangular form. Instead of an equilateral form we change it to an isosceles or scalene form. How does this change a song? In short, the 3s, is your song’s heart.

ALL GROWN UP AND SOMEPLACE TO GO

Writing Counterclockwise

“Writing counterclockwise” means writing messages in a unique way. Your song will have a message. Make the message as creative as possible. People can read between the lines. Never underestimate the intelligence of your audience. Other songwriters may teach you ways to think differently on approaching a line. But writing counterclockwise is not a matter of “thinking differently” or rearranging the words in a line, as it is more of saying what needs to be said creatively. The message is the soul of the song. Never sacrifice a line because you’ve heard a similar sequence of words before in a different song. Nobody pronounces words exactly as another. i don’t get tired of hearing the words “love”, “beautiful”,  and even the sequence “i love you” in a song.

i am an emotionalist. So, when i write songs, i choose words that my vocal can extract the most emotion. It’s not like i wait years for the “right” word. The emotions and message designated seem to always grab hold of the “right” word. Here’s my point: Artist can write a song with complicated rhymes using everyday words and still find a way to be heard as a creative lyricist. Still, it’s not the words. It’s style. Delivery. Coolness. Attitude behind the words. And it’s not a matter of rearranging words. It’s okay to do that. Nobody is a moron for trying to write differently on purpose. Let’s just remember that’s it’s okay not to worry about words as it is to sing from the gut. I’d rather hear someone sing the word “love” directly from the gut and in a unique way, than trying to use words to explain love poetically. Let’s not get too scientific about structure of a line. Let’s remember that emotions have a voice too. Of course, i’m an emotionalist and i like to push that agenda.

Singing is saying. Splice lyrics from your song’s mouth. Clarify your message. As Ezra Pound wrote in ABC of Reading, “Who loses his words loses his note.” Sometimes you have too many notes. Take a step back. Edit if need be.

Songs have a place to go. That place is called society. Each song has an obligation to society. The idea of creating a creature to only imprison it in a room, or junk drawer, or lock it within recording software on the hard drive of a computer is “inhusong”; meaning inhumane to a song.

Share your song. There is a reason why you have had the urge, dedicated the time, and  fought hard to complete a song. That reason is only found once you begin to share the song(s). Your wife, husband, son, daughter, grandchild, friend may tell you that your song is exactly what they needed to hear.

i beg you to not become that artist who tells a person that you once wrote a song and can’t remember it. KEEP IN TOUCH WITH YOUR SONG. Never let the 3Ps slip past you. Be intentional about holding yourself accountable to at least one of the 3Ps. Always be intentional. Maybe you raised some songs up in an unbefitting way. It may not have grown up the way you intended. Be intentional about changing it. All in all, a song is part of you, but not you. When you leave earth, your song will stay behind only if you’ve shared it. Otherwise, it will pass with you. Every song created by you is special. Begin to be inspired now in the name of Jesus.

“How can one express the indefinable sensations that one experiences while writing an instrumental composition that has no definite subject? It is a purely lyrical process. It is a musical confession of the soul, which unburdens itself through sounds just as a lyric poet expresses himself through poetry… As the poet Heine said, ‘Where words leave off, music begins.’ ” – Tchaikovsky

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