Last week I was sitting at my piano, pondering a melody over some C minor intervals, and it struck me that every time I sit down to start a new song it starts out as something immediately and entirely sad. The nonsense lyrics I always start out with to sketch out a song structure have a universally depressing theme, and I’m always more comfortable with minor chords than major.
I love music. Music means more to me than anything; it makes me feel connected to something bigger than myself, something tangible that I can reach for no matter my mood. Happy, depressed, pissed off, elated, excited, mildly perturbed – I know I can find a song that will underscore my feelings and help me define the moment. So why, when I create the very art form I love so much, do I always emphasize the sad?
I know I’m not the only happy well-adjusted person who writes exclusively sad songs. When I posted a status update about this topic last week it inspired quite a few comments. One friend believes that with sad songs us happy folk are “Letting out the dark so we can let in the light.” I agree – I know that even if I don’t realize it at the time, my songs almost always reprocess old pain. Perhaps us upbeat, well-fed artists are always trying to recreate, at least during the writing process, some miserable period that represents us at our most creatively generative. We write to give voice to the myths we create around both past and present and embellish our narrative; pain is much more compelling than happiness.
I’m realizing, though, as I get older and my life is getting more stable, that I don’t want to use past or hidden hurt as a crutch anymore. Creativity has infinite space for nuance, and I want to push myself outside of my sad little comfort zone. The question is, of course, how – I’m hoping that some of our many creative and talented readers have some advice.
I’ll leave you with some pain:
And that vast in-between: