Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Best Songs Have Already Been Written

I'm a musician. Mostly I play piano and violin,  even a little tuba or miscellaneous low brass for a good cause, and I sing when a situation calls for singing. One thing I don't do, however, is write music. My reasons for not writing music are two-fold.

First and foremost, I have no desire to write music. I don't have a strong desire to create, period. In my family, we're not artists of any sort except to the extent that musicians are considered artists. We're all happy to play the works of others. Sure, I've thrown a few chord and scale patterns together and passed it off as the work of Handel, Bach, or Mozart on occasion mainly for the purpose of illustrating someone else's pretentiousness, but as far as writing real music -- either melody or words--  I'm simply uninspired. Judging by some music I've heard recently, others are similarly uninspired yet do not let that get in the way of recording and making a buck. For me personally, at this point there's nothing I want to share with the world through the composition of original music, and I suspect the world at large is a better place for my knowing my own limitations.

My second and equally compelling reason for not writing music is a deep and abiding belief that the best music has already been written. Would-be composers of my generation are not likely to come up with anything to rival the works of Bach and Mozart, of Irving Berlin, of Gershwin, of Lennon and McCartney, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Don McLean, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Carole King, Dylan, Roger Waters, Billie Joe Armstrong, Andrew Lloyd Weber, or even Gordon Lightfoot, to name just a few. I've felt this way for as long as I can remember, and since I remember feeling this way, a few songs I really appreciate have come into existence, so I've certainly been wrong about this, just as I've been wrong about many things. For this reason, I would never actively discourage anyone else who so desires from writing melodies or lyrics. I still believe the odds are heavily stacked against anyone coming up with anything original that is truly worth hearing, but as long as there is life, there is hope, or so it has been said.

I'll close with an excerpt from a truly great song. It's probable that before this song existed,  there were people who felt as I do about new music. If so, I'm glad Don McLean didn't listen to them.

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I'd heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn't play
And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most-
the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost-
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died


  1. I can agree with that. 100%. Jason and I were just talking about this exact thing last night. The songs that are coming out today are just... ehh. It probably has a lot to do with today's technology. Anyone can make a music video and post it on YouTube and become a star. It might not always be in a good way, either. "Call Me Maybe" is the latest one that (to me) feels like finger nails down a blackboard. And that one is on the radio.

    We are amazed by a girl called Jenna Rose, who came out around the same time as Rebecca Black, from the same production co. She is the perfect example of the fact that anyone can write a terrible, horrible, not so very good song. Never mind the absurdities in the music video. Check that one out, if you haven't already. My Jeans, by Jenna Rose. The video with leave you in stitches.

    1. PS: Don McLean is awesome. Vincent is one of my favorites from him, along with the obvious American Pie. It's really hard not to like him. Fleetwood Mac is another one of my guilty pleasures. ELO, Elton John, Gerry Rafferty, Eric Clapton, Toto, Bread. Steve Miller Band, Phil Collins. The 5th Dimension... I could go, on and on, as I can imagine you can, as well.

  2. I love Elton John. He didn't write lyrics, but his music stands alone. I love nearly all the groups you mentioned. my dad likes Fleetwood Mac a lot more than I do, so I hear it more than I'd like. I do think "Landslide" is one of the greater songs ever written. Funny thing is that I cannot stand Stevie Nicks' voice, but it's just right on "Landslide," and for the most part, i wish others including the Dixie Chicks would leave "Landslide" alone.

    I love "Vincent," too. I also like "Castles in the Air" and "Crossroads" by Don McLean.

    I don't even know what to say about Jenna Rose.
    And while I welcome technology, the autotune feature is crazy. What's next -- letting player pianos enter the Van Cliburn competition? I don't get it.