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January, 2016

Remembrance, Reflection, and Resolution

by Webmaster

Another new year. Time for remembrance, reflection, and resolution.

Remember the days of subliminal messages? "Buy popcorn" would flash on a movie screen too fast to be recognized by the conscious mind, but would cause people to buy popcorn. This works because our subconscious mind sees, hears, smells, tastes and feels more than our conscious mind. We would be unable to focus on any task if our conscious mind was busy recording every tiny detail of each second.

As a result, our subconscious minds know more than our conscious minds. It sends us dreams and lets us make leaps of intuition. It may also be the source of those sudden inspirations—the new line that will perfect the chorus of a song, or a melody which soars.

But that's not why I mentioned subliminal messages.

We remember images when our conscious mind has time to absorb all the details. The film "Nebraska" had so much visual impact because the camera lingered on scenes. Our brains had time to absorb the images. I can still see scenes that would make fabulous wall art.

When the action in movies or TV shows goes too fast, our subconscious remembers, and we follow the story, but we have few or no conscious images. That's why, when someone asks you about the last movie you saw, you can't remember. It has nothing to do with the plot or acting or your age. It has to do with the pace.

What does this have to do with music? Everything.

We hear songs. When we hear them in live performances or on the radio, we can't rewind or fast-backward to hear a line again. Our subconscious mind records everything, but our conscious mind misses parts of the songs. If the chorus repeats, we get another shot at it. If the chorus is hooky, we know the chorus by the time the song ends, and sometimes we can sing along with it. That's why repetition is important in song lyrics. If the lyrics are descriptive and use sensory images, and we leave space in the music for the conscious mind to visualize, listeners will remember the lyrics, or more of the lyrics.

Rap doesn't have a chorus, at least, not one that I've heard. It evokes emotion but it doesn't leave many lasting images in our conscious minds. It's primariily a rhyming groove, and people who love to dance will get into the groove. If any lyrics stick in our heads, it's because they have shock value. They wake up our conscious mind.

We need to hear a song repeated to learn all the lyrics. Then, we get comfortable with it. New songs take energy. We need to concentrate and activate our conscious minds to catch as much of the new song as we can.

I am a songwriter. I love shows that feature new songwriters and their new material. But, those shows are not audience-friendly. The audience has to work too hard.

When we perform new original songs in concert, we need to mix them in with cover tunes or older original songs that the audience recognizes, to give the people breaks from listening intently. They need time to relax and rest before the next new song.

We also need to remember to say something witty that will catch their attention before they listen to a new song. A joke about the subject matter or a funny short anecdote about writing the song or performing it elsewhere will grab their attention. It will help them focus on the song. They'll know what to listen for based on the hint you've given them.

"This song is about . . ." followed by a long, dreary explanation bores the audience. Once you've told the story, there's no need for the audience to hear the song. Go ahead and sing it anyway. They need the nap.

No matter how wonderful your original material is, if you don't grab their attention before the new songs, and give them breaks with familiar songs, the audience will come away from a show with no memory of anything they heard. "Some of the tunes were pretty."

They probably won't come back to hear you again.

I mentioned, remembrance, reflection, and resolution in my opening sentence, and started with the word "remember." Does that mean I skipped the other two subjects of the first sentence? You might want to reflect on that, and if you identified with something in this column, you might want to make a resolution to change or keep doing what you identified with.

Happy New Year.

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