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First I Tell The Song, Then The Song Tells Me

If I’m lucky, I start out a song with an idea I like  – music, words, feel; whatever I can get – and some ideas about where I might go with it.

Or I might be messing around – aka ‘writing’ – and come across something I like. This then leads to other thoughts about where the song could go and what it could be about.

So I chip away at it – sometimes this takes an hour (rare), other times it goes over a course of months (less rare, in my case) – until, if I’m lucky, it starts taking shape, becoming something substantial…

In other words, the song has begun to take on a life of its own… which is what I’m searching and hoping for.

When this starts to happen, I’ve noticed that something important in the writing process occurs.

What I wanted the song to be about, or thought it would be about, is not so important anymore.  There may be something going on now that’s much stronger and more interesting than what I originally intended.

It’s now my job to, as best I can, let go of what I thought the song was supposed to be, and
to pay attention to what it is.

First I tell the song, then the song tells me.

p.s.  I probably don’t have to point out the parallels here to the process of raising an individuated, autonomous child.  Or to just living…

4 responses to “First I Tell The Song, Then The Song Tells Me”

  • This is so true. Every piece has a life of it’s own. What we want to happen in the work losses importance when the work starts to “speak to you”–as I call it. (See my comments under teaching composition below) It’s amazing how we agree on this, yet write very different music. Style is secondary to the act of composition. It’s reminds me of Michelangelo’s “slave” sculptures, where the image of the slave is being uncovered from the huge block of stone. In a similar fashion, we will find the true image of our song as we chip away at the block of stone.


  • bookmarked!!, I really like your website!

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