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  • Writer's pictureJacke Karashae

audio art & autobiography

i love alliteration. and the ampersand.  in the right font it just looks so regal.  it’s like the character of the alphabet that went to yale along with the entire “georgia” fontface.  on that note, i’m pretty sure _ went to mit and ~ went to the community college down the street. fellow ~ers, salute!

anyways.


has anyone else noticed that popular music is often assumed to be written about the personal, direct experiences of the songwriter? it’s like most/all modern music is assumed to be nonfiction, unless it’s within the grandstanding confines of the “concept album”. like, if it’s in first-person perspective, 99% of the time you assume that the person who wrote it is supposed to be the person in the song.


does that strike you as weird? think about it in the context of books. imagine if, as an author, any book you wrote in “present-time” context (not in the grandiose worlds of fantasy or science fiction) was assumed to be a memoir.  imagine if readers of a book always looked for the character that was “the author”, and thought poorly of authors who made up people and situations to write about?


i’ve been thinking about this a lot because i’ve realized that i think there’s a special power to musical fiction.  music has this special ability to combine an argument (in lyric) with connotation (in tone) to create a multisensory message/experience.


sometimes, we use the connotation to augment the argument: sad lyrics matched with a lagging, minor, minimalist arrangement, or happy lyrics matched with a toe-tapping, finger-snapping, major-key full-orchestra accompaniment.  other times, it’s direct contradiction: sad lyrics and a happy tune.

the agreement or contradiction of these two things i think affects our sense of the “authenticity” of the idea expressed in a song–happy words with a happy tune? well, clearly you’re feeling it!  sad words and a happy tune? uh-oh, somebody is either lying or in denial!


the extremes are the most obvious, and because of that i think they’re the least interesting.  they don’t reflect the ways our minds think most often: in half-truths and quarter-contradictions, syncopated with eighths of blind spots and sixteenths of self-awareness.  it’s often an imperceptible muck to us, but when we talk to our close friends, they see the distinctions of elements far more clearly.  truly, sometimes i only see my own silly contradictions when i talk to someone else who has those same ones, because i can see their contradictions and blind spots far more easily than i can see my own.


and that is what i keep reaching for when i write, that moment of realization when you see the chink in the armour of another person’s argument that they’re blind to, because i think that inspires so much more introspection and soul-searching than being told something that’s obviously supposed to be seen as “right/good” or “wrong/bad”.  seeing a flawed argument reminds us how fragile all of our perspectives are and how easy it is for us to miss something important.


i think it’s a much harder call as a writer to create a character with internal contradiction (even if it is patterned after you). it’s easy to “show your hand”, to be too on-the-nose with the rightness or wrongness that you want discerned. i also fear that it opens you to harsher criticism, when people assume that you always are writing an autobigraphy and every lyric is liturgic.  (i know this misinterpretation is possible because i have made that mistake myself!)


so, everyone: let’s think about art not on a scale of “rightness” but on a scale of “goodness”.  because hey, if a song about a “bad” mindset reveals to us some badness in ourselves, that might be the best song we could hear.i love alliteration. and the ampersand. in the right font it just looks so regal. it’s like the character of the alphabet that went to yale along with the entire “georgia” fontface. on that note, i’m pretty sure _ went to mit and ~ went to the community college down the street. fellow ~ers, salute!


anyways.


has anyone else noticed that popular music is often assumed to be written about the personal, direct experiences of the songwriter? it’s like most/all modern music is assumed to be nonfiction, unless it’s within the grandstanding confines of the “concept album”. like, if it’s in first-person perspective, 99% of the time you assume that the person who wrote it is supposed to be the person in the song.


does that strike you as weird? think about it in the context of books. imagine if, as an author, any book you wrote in “present-time” context (not in the grandiose worlds of fantasy or science fiction) was assumed to be a memoir. imagine if readers of a book always looked for the character that was “the author”, and thought poorly of authors who made up people and situations to write about?


i’ve been thinking about this a lot because i’ve realized that i think there’s a special power to musical fiction. music has this special ability to combine an argument (in lyric) with connotation (in tone) to create a multisensory message/experience.


sometimes, we use the connotation to augment the argument: sad lyrics matched with a lagging, minor, minimalist arrangement, or happy lyrics matched with a toe-tapping, finger-snapping, major-key full-orchestra accompaniment. other times, it’s direct contradiction: sad lyrics and a happy tune.


the agreement or contradiction of these two things i think affects our sense of the “authenticity” of the idea expressed in a song–happy words with a happy tune? well, clearly you’re feeling it! sad words and a happy tune? uh-oh, somebody is either lying or in denial!


the extremes are the most obvious, and because of that i think they’re the least interesting. they don’t reflect the ways our minds think most often: in half-truths and quarter-contradictions, syncopated with eighths of blind spots and sixteenths of self-awareness. it’s often an imperceptible muck to us, but when we talk to our close friends, they see the distinctions of elements far more clearly. truly, sometimes i only see my own silly contradictions when i talk to someone else who has those same ones, because i can see their contradictions and blind spots far more easily than i can see my own.


and that is what i keep reaching for when i write, that moment of realization when you see the chink in the armour of another person’s argument that they’re blind to, because i think that inspires so much more introspection and soul-searching than being told something that’s obviously supposed to be seen as “right/good” or “wrong/bad”. seeing a flawed argument reminds us how fragile all of our perspectives are and how easy it is for us to miss something important.


i think it’s a much harder call as a writer to create a character with internal contradiction (even if it is patterned after you). it’s easy to “show your hand”, to be too on-the-nose with the rightness or wrongness that you want discerned. i also fear that it opens you to harsher criticism, when people assume that you always are writing an autobigraphy and every lyric is liturgic. (i know this misinterpretation is possible because i have made that mistake myself!)


so, everyone: let’s think about art not on a scale of “rightness” but on a scale of “goodness”. because hey, if a song about a “bad” mindset reveals to us some badness in ourselves, that might be the best song we could hear.

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