I once heard a debate about where songs come from. I don’t remember if it was in a Philosophy of Art class or in a book called Written in My Soul. There were two or three trains of thought. One was that they are simply created, made from the tools that are words and music. Tools we can all learn. Some songwriters contend that they already exist and they fall from the sky, and the writer simply has the awareness to catch them as they fall. The pragmatic answer, I think, is that is a combination of both. Let me tell you why.
One of the interesting things about Facebook is that things will pop up that you forgot about. Granted, I have had memory issues since I had a seizure or two but it is not just that. I found about two dozen videos I had posted from my phone recordings. Half of them were Dylan songs and half were mine. And of the ones that were mine, half of them, I don’t even know what inspired them, where they came from. And after hearing them again, only two years later, I still don’t know. Even a master like Dylan says he doesn’t know where some of his songs came from.
As a listener, no wonder songs can be so interpretive. Especially when the composer doesn’t know what they are about. I wasn’t on drugs and I was sober when I wrote them and recorded them. But some, I didn’t even remember I had written them. It was like watching me sing a cover of someone else.
They were all eventually familiar but as each video began, I was surprised by them and waited in anticipation to see what was to come. I recognized my shirts and my sloppy hair but with some songs, I had to listen closely to determine whether they were mine or not. It’s an odd feeling watching yourself perform something you wrote and not remember writing it or why you wrote it.
I have my first solo gig ever coming up in a while and I found a dozen songs I had forgotten. Songs that I only recorded two years ago. The fret-board is out of view so I don’t know how to play them. I’d have to re-learn them again, like I am learning from a record. The words, if they were ever written down, are long gone.
And there are some very good songs there. As good as I have ever written. But they were lost. Of course, if I only played them once and I have had memory problems, then that’s the rational point of view. But somehow, I think there’s something more to it.
I guess I will never really know. It’s something I enjoy thinking about though. Inspiration is often a mystery to me. But then again, so is much of the world. But there is wisdom in asking the question, I think.