Layers in the MusicA few months ago I heard a radio interviewer ask a band to tell the world the most annoying interview question ever posed to them. The band—I don’t recall their name—said they couldn’t stand to be asked if they write the music first or the lyrics.

They said that they, and most every musician in their knowledge, write the music first. It was a given, a no-brainer.

As a writer, I found this fascinating. When you write with structure, as I love to do with poetry, you start with the structure first and then put words into it. It makes sense that musicians would do the same. It also makes sense, when you listen to bubble gum or cookie cutter music, that you hear words being changed or used in the wrong ways only to fit the music because the structure got in the way.

And then you hear something written by Leonard Cohen, and you realize what structure done right can really do and the amazing difference in hearing poetry put to music. Absolutely brilliant.

In similar brilliant fashion, lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Queen and appreciating the band’s gift for capitalizing on a quick moment of silence or their ability to layer sound and build to a crescendo as the unbridled lyrics actually tell a story or evoke a feeling. No wonder Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett put Queen in their book Good Omens, one of my favorite books of all time for its ability to get a reader to laugh out loud with imaginative and specific details. In Good Omens, it’s said that every cassette tape left in a vehicle for two weeks will automatically play the Best of Queen regardless of what band is on the label. It’s details like that that make for intriguing writing.

And it’s all those layers in the music that make for the kind of listening that opens the mind to tiny, tiny details and vast possibilities.

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Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing. 

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