Music Major! Wait. Can a song be something not musical?
The Song of Myself by Walt Whitman is 52 verses long! Would this guy be a narcissist? Or is he exploring every nuance of his being: what it means to be a person, to be a human, to be a man? We do that don’t we? We think deep thoughts and then craft them into a whole. All our experiences and adventures become us. All of the little bits of information and insight are interwoven into our being. Our philosophies are developed atom by atom. We envision big events as being catalysts for our lives’ direction, when in fact, it’s the looks from friends and parents, the Sunday school lesson, the fall off the bike, the first times–walking, climbing, writing…
Would you be the same person you are now if the first time you wrote your name, you did it with red crayon instead of a pencil? Would you be the same if your parents had read Beetle Bailey out loud instead of Peanuts? What kind of person would you be if your parents played Sinatra instead of Elvis? Would you respond the same to bullies or would you be the bully? Nature vs. Nurture has been an ongoing philosophical discussion for decades. They cannot be separated. 2 infants with the same types of parents going through the same events would still turn out completely different due to their nature, and 2 infants of the same nature would turn out completely different due to their upbringing and surroundings. Look up “What a piece of work is Man” by Shakespeare.
Let’s get into music then, as I am an expert. (You put those eyebrows down! I AM an expert!) How many notes are there? 88 on a standard piano. What about all the quarter tones…the notes between the notes? What about the notes that are higher than one can whistle that you can play on a violin? Are there notes so low that you can only feel them? Of course. So this is a huge palette of sounds as pitches are available. Then look at the rhythm instruments! Continuous sound vs rhythmic repetition can make a difference in the ambiance of the music. A rain stick is an example of continuous sound and a drum kit is typical of rhythmic repetition. Then there are tuned rhythmic instruments like the piano or the xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel, you can think of hundreds of others. The rhythm can be untuned or tuned then! The bass guitar acts as a rhythm instrument as does the strumming guitar even though neither would be considered a percussion instrument. Do you see the possibilities of musical themes? They would be limitless and as you add more elements such as orchestration (assigning aspects of the music to different instruments or voices) counter melodies, chord progressions…the number of songs goes to infinity. What happens if we rearrange the songs so the melodies stay constant and the harmonies change? Look at all the covers of “Don’t you worry ’bout a thing” by Stevie Wonder! In addition, we can find the same chord progressions in multiple songs but notice the melodies are all different?
What does that have to do with the premise? Each person is the melody of their own existence. The depth and breadth of their growth is the harmony and rhythm that each person builds with each day they live, each book they read, each thought they contemplate, each tune they listen to, each task they perform, each interaction with the world that surrounds them. At the end of life, this song can be as simple as a nursery rhyme or as complicated as a symphony.
Make your song beautiful!