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Ancient Philosopher Plato’s Approach To Songwriting

January 19, 2014
Plato was the world's first rock star. Look at the hair.

Plato was the world’s first rock star. I mean, look at the hair & beard

So you’ve probably heard of ol’ Plato. As a philosopher and mathematician in Greece, he was a pretty smart dude back in the day. But he was not some fancy-pants snob. That foo loved music and poetry, too. Here’s a quote from him.

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.

Pretty cool, right? It gets even better! Would you believe his philosophies can help you write better songs? Believe it.

Check this out.

The Art of Discovery

We all think of music as a form of creativity. However, Plato rejected the idea of “creativity” (stay with me, now). He instead preferred to see the arts as a form of discovery. He said that the artist was a discoverer not a an inventor.

Wow. Did your brain just explode, too?

Okay, now I don’t completely agree with this viewpoint, but it definitely can help us write songs, among other things.

Now, as you know, I’m way big into the power of hard work, and creativity/songwriting is hard work. But some times, I think we try too hard to hammer down songs when we need to let them breathe. While I’ve said before that natural is overrated, sometimes the song naturally heads a different direction than our original intended direction and we resist it.

However, sometimes I’ve found that the song is smarter than us. Sometimes the song knows where it needs to go, and we need to step back and discover it. Sometimes, the song has already written itself, we just need to unearth it from the cosmos (that last sentence was pretty out there, right?).

Ol’ Plato was right. The other day I was writing a song, and I really wanted to take the song in a certain direction and the song was growing in another direction. Eventually, I surrendered and let the song decide. And you know what? I got a great song out of it.

Of course, this is not a rule. Most of the time, I don’t write like this. But that’s the beauty of music; there are no rules. But the more you know, the better you can be and the better music you can make.


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