A Universe of Music 🎶
In 2020 I listened to 365 albums. It took me almost 300 hours, and 12.5 days of listening.
I call it #Hearing2020, and there’s a story for that coming soon.
Listening to a new album every day changes the way you listen to music. It changes the way you view the artist. And it changes the way you think about music.
#Hearing2020 got my gears turning about music in The Tree of Knowledge, and in fiction altogether.
Music is the purest art.
Though we can’t prove it, I have a hunch that Neandertals and Homo Erectus were “singing” long before they were painting, and definitely before they were writing. (Prove me wrong Yuval Noah Harari).
That’s why early every great fiction series has music, as do the best movies. Sometimes, the music even steals the show. (Think Django, Harry Potter, and Baby Driver )
If you haven’t yet read it, here is an example of a song in the book.
This song comes from Saunter, a seasoned Ranger and native. He’s stoic, placid, and a no-nonsense feller. He’s closed and aloof.
It’s not until we hear this big, burly, bearish man singing to himself that the character opens up to the reader — and to the girl following him.
Therein lies its beauty. Music has a magical ability to change the way people feel and act. Walk into a room where three strangers are conversing and you might feel nervous. Walk into the same room with music (say, The Mama’s and The Papa’s) playing quietly, and your distance from them will shrink by 50%! (Harvard Study).
To name a few:
Communicating information (let’s not go by the leopard!!)
Communicating emotions (let’s have fun!!)
Connecting children to parents (especially infants)
Relief against death-anxiety
Mourning / celebrating
And here is Saunter, a warrior far past his prime, singing alone in the wild.
In fantasy, humanizing characters can be an added challenge. So, we add devices like songs. You find them in The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, Red Rising , and beyond — music is a staple fantasy and science fiction. Part of its DNA.
Creativity is a crucial pillar supporting humanity’s wobbly house.
Does any other animal paint lions in order to warn others of danger, sing songs to strengthen the infant-parent bond, or make books of poisonous spiders?
Today, we throw the word creativity at anything “artistic” and usually write it off as a luxury of leisure.
But the truth is that creativity is fire, farming, boiling water, building lighthouses, developing renewable energy, coding computers, wearing masks, and every other spice in culture’s cabinet. As Kurt Vonnegut said:
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
Creativity is like growing wings.
I could end the story right there — if you have no interest in my book, feel free to jump back into Instagram, or work, or your afternoon walk — but I won’t.
I owe you an explanation.
what do the lyrics represent?
Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. See the first verse?
A refined eye for poetry might notice a connection there. In Robert Frost’s most famous poem is the line “the woods are lovely, dark, and deep.” I first read this poem in college and, coming back to it several years later, found it freighted with new meaning.
It’s about temptation, about uncertainty, yet still being enticed toward the depths of a dark wood.
What does the forest represent? The backwoods are lovely, dark, deep — and they’re a complete environment. They sustain themselves, peaceful yet also wild, mad, and have existed before we “rational” creatures stepped in.
In the woods, the responsibility is only to the self.
And Saunter is selfish as they get.
He is the posterized champion of society, a “hero.” Yet he has fallen from grace. After a series of events I won’t get into here, he flees his responsibilities, escaping to the ancient, mystical, tropical woods of Elevana.
Elevana, like the woods, sits on the edge of civilization. It is an island of outcasts and exiles, whose immaculate beaches are tormented by the occasional debilitating weather.
No surprise, this refugee island, where all native children are indentured servants, is where Saunter retreats from society.
The way I hear the song, is like the captain of an old ship, drifting aimlessly at sea. His crew has left him and he struggles to manage it on his own. He stands at the bow and watches as the shoreline drifts further and further away.
Without a crew, without a mission, the captain has lost sight of who he is, what he is, and what he wants.
If you read the book, you will learn about Saunter’s true identity, what he has accomplished, and may get a clue to his destiny.
But if I had to compare him to a musical artist, at least in sound, it would be Jimmy Durante. Or maybe a mixture of Durante and Eric Clapton.
Here’s where it gets real.
I wrote this song on May 15th, 2020.
My randomly selected “album of the day” on May 15th, 2020 was Eric Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard. I still remember sitting down to write at the desk in my “outdoor office.”
In Austin, it’s a scorcher. I’m sitting at a foldable picnic desk that you could only find at Ikea, in the shade of our massive, while birds chitter a thousand songs in the crown above.
Now, four months of writing pass. My book goes through its first copy edit. It’s a mess. They put me on deadline to submit the next version.
It’s September 25, 2020, a Friday, and I take the morning off to train for my marathon. Who do I listen to on my 22-mile run that day? Random selection draws up…Jimmy Durante. A sweaty four hours of running, music, and an audiobook later… I finish the run.
On the day prior, I received the galley for the book — which is basically the final copy’s first look.
I skim through, marking where tweaks need to be made. I pause on the song in chapter 15. Something doesn’t feel right. The song is fine, but I can’t “hear his voice.”
I write the following words at the top of the page:
His voice was old and worn but smooth and dark as velvet.
And from there, Saunter’s voice came to life. Saunter’s personality came to life. He’s a warrior, a hero, an orphan, and a selfish bastard. But...
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Cheers friends, thanks for reading.
- Be back soon for more
What are some other reasons we make music? Let’s discuss in the comments