The Fine Art Of Songwriting


Have you ever listened to a song and lost all track of time? Was the experience so complete in itself, that you desired nothing else? In fact, you weren't even aware of any lack of desire, any conscious thought of anything? Have you experienced this same thing while looking at, or rather looking into, a work of art, such as a painting? Or watching a champion figure skater perform a routine? An actor reciting a dramatic monologue? If you have, and we all have, then you have experienced a work of fine art.

The word "fine" comes from the French word, "fin" which is, in turn derived from the Latin, "finis," meaning "final" or "finished," the notion being that a "fine" work of art, should be an end in itself. Such a work of art does not coerce the listener or viewer toward desire or repulsion. It does not entice someone to react in a pre-calculated manner. A work of fine art doesn't make an appeal for any immediate emotional reaction whatsoever. Certainly, after the song has ended, or the sculpture is viewed after a time, many emotional, and intellectual feelings can and do arise. More often than not, though, words aren't immediately accessible that sufficiently express what has just happened. Our attention was temporarily arrested, producing in us a condition not unlike a spiritual experience - one of awe. I think that's what we mean when we speak about something being timeless.

Most of our waking experience is spent reacting to external events, subject to the flux of emotions and animal passions that constitute our shared human condition. Liberation from this ego-driven, "I"-centered relationship with the world may be accomplished by peering into these windows of timelessness, however fleeting they may be. Afterwards, we may resume the business of living feeling a little more refreshed and hopeful in the knowledge that, perhaps, "There is another world, and it is in this one."

The qualifications for something to be considered a work of fine art have less to do with the subjective quality of the artwork in question and more to do with the purity of the discipline - the daily adherence to the perfecting of a craft. It's the calligraphy master's brush stroke, it's haiku, it's a Michael Jordan jump-shot, it's a Pat Metheny guitar solo, it's Streisand singing "Send In The Clowns," and its appearance seems as natural as the unfolding of a flower. The curious thing about a work that attains this level of mastery is the almost universal appeal it has. While soliciting nothing from the beholder, it offers an opportunity for shared participation in the beauty of its being. Viewed from its humble plot by the roadside, or not at all, the rose remains beautiful.