The Spirit of a Song

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by Marni Levitt Wed.Nov.1, 2017

People often ask me what comes first when I am writing a song.  Is it the melody? The words?  The rhythm?  The answer is that it is none of those things!  It is the spirit of the song.  The spirit of what the song is about.  The reason why I am writing the song.  The meaning, or the purpose behind it.  The feeling.  The message.  This is what drives the creation.  It is something invisible, inaudible, intangible.  Existing only in my heart and imagination.  I often have that sense of the spirit of the song before any of the other elements come (the words, the melody, the rhythm, the guitar chords, etc…).

The other elements sometimes come into being together (not separately), such as a catchy little melody along with some words, or a rhythmic pattern plus some chords, or words plus a rhythm, etc… Sometimes the elements will come in isolation of each other (ie. just the words, or just the melody by itself).  It is different every time.  Once in awhile, the whole song, with all the elements will come out all together at one time!!! Those are often the best songs.  It is as if they have been downloaded directly from the song spirits!  Sometimes a song will come out almost all finished, or just the beginning will come out whole with all the elements together.  I will then spend the next few weeks finishing the rest of the song.

Sometimes the process takes much longer.  Sometimes there is a seed for a song idea in my mind for a long time, and it takes weeks or months to germinate and grow.  I try to write or record ideas so I can come back to them later.  Sometimes, there are two different ideas for songs, and I write them both down in my sketchbook, and later on, somehow, the two parts of the song become linked together into one song.  Sometimes I will sing little bits of melodies into my phone, so that I can remember them and work with them later.  Usually, though, I know a song is a keeper from the beginning it starts to come out of me and take shape.  Even if I only come up with one verse, or one chorus, I know a good one when I hear it.  Often the chorus will come first – that’s the most important, most emotional, most catchy part of a song that repeats throughout.

The songs that I know are keepers, and that I love, I often find that when I sing them for other people, they love them too!  I am glad I know when I am on to something.  I am grateful to song spirits for blessing me with their presence!

Spirit comes first.  In a sense, my songs would not come to life if there was not a purpose or meaning behind them.  The ‘why’ of my songs is wrapped up in them.  Snug like a baby in a blanket.  Inseparable from the songs themselves.  I try to approach my whole life that way too.

What do you think?  How do you feel? What is your creative process?  How do things come into being in your art or in your life or work?