By Kat Goldman
Where does a song come from?
Where does a song come from? How do you answer a question so enigmatic?
It’s almost like asking: “ Where does a baby come from ? ” I mean, we KNOW where a baby comes from (at least, I think I know…) but we still don’t know how it happened in the first place. In other words, from where did “Life” originate ? Where did the very first baby REALLY come from ? Which reminds me of another question: Where do we go when we die ? Is there an Afterlife ? Will there be hammocks ? And will I be able to order a Big Mac from time to time ?
Some songwriters have claimed their songs have literally flown into their heads out of nowhere. Some even dream their songs, or else they wake up with a melody in their heads.
How does it happen? Do elves whisper it to them in their sleep? Can you pull out a song like a rabbit from a hat? How did George Harrison write, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” by merely opening the pages of a book to the words, “gently weeps?”
Or what about when a song gets written in fifteen minutes? How do you explain that? How does it just come rolling off your tongue into your fingers and onto your page, as if it wrote itself? Are there spirits speaking through us? Are we making contact with other planets? Is there really such a thing as a Muse, and if so, can she please send me a HIT for Stevie Nicks to cover?
Not only that, how do you explain those long, “dry,” periods where you can’t write a thing? You’ll be lying in fetal position for weeks- and even months on end, taking only periodic breaks to stretch out your arms and legs so that they don’t cramp up on you...
You’ll be thinking you’re all washed up- that you’re never gonna’ write again- you’re ready to throw in the towel- your whole life has amounted to nothing and maybe you should just start flipping hamburgers at Dairy Queen…. But then, one day the spell- just… breaks! The wheels will begin to turn again and out comes another song.
Let’s return to the original question: Where does a song come from? From where does a song come?
You might as well be asking: Why is the sky blue? Where do socks go when they get lost in the dryer? Why did I get a little sister, when really I wanted a little brother? Why did Rachel Nussbaum punch me in the stomach at recess time in grade four?
If I drink Ayahuasca Tea, will I really be able to meet my “ True Self ? ” What IS a “ True Self ? ” And, finally, why do birds - suddenly appear- every time- you are near? Just like me-e-e… they long to be-e-e… close to y-o-o-o-u-u-u… (Wait a minute… that’s a Carpenters song).
The answer is...I don’t know.
While there are legitimate techniques for writing lyrics and melodies, some songs are just- well… inspired.
Maybe you’ll be scrubbing the bathroom floor when suddenly you’ll hear a few bars of a melody. Maybe you’ll be driving home when you see a billboard that gives you a first line, or a title. Maybe you’ll be listening to your favourite music and an idea gets sparked.
Sometimes our songs come from a mysterious, numinous place. You just have to be there to catch them. And when those words come galloping through- and you marry them to a melody, it’s like all the pieces of a puzzle come together.
Any songwriter knows it’s one of the great feelings of being alive.