It’s about being a good listener.
Here’s what I mean.
A few years ago, I interviewed electronic violinist Dr. Draw for a feature story in Starlight Music Chronicles, and he was extremely grateful that I understood something. As a performer who’d played on stages around the world, Draw had been interviewed countless times by journalists. In the course of that, Draw had become a bit frustrated by journalists working under the illusion that his ethereal music purely resulted from his technical skills… that if he hadn’t learned how to read music or know the notes he was playing, he’d somehow be unable to write music. Yet I’d developed a different sense of how music really happens.
I’d come to the idea that music is like a river of notes always happening around us. Distraction, worry and a sheer unwillingness to relax and let go commonly prevent people from hearing this river. Yet for those who can focus past all that, “writing a song” simply involves two steps:
- Listen to the river.
- Write down what you hear.
For this reason, some of the world’s biggest songs have been written by artists who never learned how to read or write music.
In other words, knowing theory is great for lots of reasons. Yet notes and chords are a record of an experience. They’re the result of something.
In my interview, I likened Draw to an alchemist rendering what he heard into form through his violin, and he was so grateful to someone finally getting it that he wrote to personally tell me. (Such an awesome guy.)
A few months ago after finishing an original song called “Love Someone” for another artist, I again sat down to scribble my thoughts about where music comes from, but made a personal journey.
By sharing it here, I hope it helps you on your own creative journey and connection to spirit, the universe, river of notes or whatever you call it.
In the following reflections about “Love Someone,” I called this place the ocean:
“I sing sometimes of an ocean. Funny. I rarely write about the ocean in regular writing, but when I allow the lid to creak back even a bit on the Pandora’s box that seems to sit within my mind, I see that ocean… just rolling there… just smiling in the way that all oceans seem to smile… rolling and roiling, those great white waves… just smiling.
So it was that I smiled back yesterday evening, as I’ve not done in some time. It’s funny how you can forget an ocean when it’s right there all the time… always whispering on those fringe edges… on those beaches… where we ourselves walk, or once did, and to where we’re always drawn. It was to that shore breeze that I closed my eyes and drank in the lungful of life that’s always there for everyone, and where was I next?
It’s difficult to say. There was an immersion… a letting go… a great engulfment with no compass points… and if a voice spoke, I recognized no words. Only emotion—those words of all hearts but no language. How can a heart creak and cry so badly for something so formless… dimensionless… so utterly unknowable?
I ask as one this morning who came up from those depths, and for a moment, it was as if the world was a collection of loose particles… shimmering… taking only the form that I believed I’d find. And so I was back in this place called reality… and for all the waters and waves and lengths of beaches stretching from here to thereafter and the never-ending edges of the map, I was lucky to bring back a song.”