I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to music. I have a hard time remembering which bands sang which of my favorite songs. And except for a few months in college when I took piano lessons, I’ve never played an instrument. But I’m just as affected by music as the next human. I think it’s in our blood to feel a rhythm seep into our core and take hold, or shake our hips or tap our toes to a beat.
And it amazes me how some songs are so poignant in their pithy message. Musicians and songwriters are similar to novel writers in their desire to get a message across to their readers or listeners, but have so much less time to do so. How do they manage to tug on emotions and tell an entire story within a few minutes (unless it’s a symphony or musical theater piece)? Think of the crescendo that marks the climax of a piece of symphony, the chorus that repeatedly highlights the main theme of the song, or the drumbeat that lends a sense of culminating suspense. Don’t these elements echo what other storytellers and writers do? In addition, there are some bands whose music I would recognize within a few notes. Isn’t this like what writers call “voice?” They have a certain technique and way of telling a story, just as each author does.
I love Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. My favorite song by them is “I Won’t Back Down.” It has a message of persistence and strength that vibrates within this writer’s soul. Just as when I read a good book, listening to this song gets me pumped up and helps me refocus. How does he do this in just a few minutes time? With skill, and awesome storytelling ability.
Since we’re talking music today, do you have other examples of how music echoes other types of storytelling/writing? Do you have a song you consider your personal anthem? Do you use music while writing, and how does it echo your characters/theme?