In the music industry, there is a term called phrasing that, at it simplest, encapsulates how a particular artist takes a song and makes it their own. The true genius of gifted artists is to know music and a particular piece so well that it allows them to sing the same song but make it different. I think we all intuitively know when a particular song is different. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes not. But have you ever tried to explain what is different? As an example for your consideration, lets listen to the White Stripes Seven Nation Army. This is a seminal song in my life for various reasons, but take a minute and try to describe what makes the White Stripes version distinct. I came up with words like grungy, visceral, pulsating. I hear, in many ways, the emotions that come from hearing that song. Next compare the Ben L’Oncle version. Do you hear the same song? Do you feel the same emotions? I found words like “it’s more funk, more soul”. It’s more crisp, bright…certainly less dark, despite the same lyrics. I intuitively know this. I hear it. I feel it.
Now try to explain to an 8 year old what makes one version funk and one version grungy rock. Its like explaining the difference between fear and trepidation. Between love and lust. Between sad and disappointed. It is not easy. So how is something like that intuition learned? If I played both versions for the 8 year old, would putting the words I’d chosen next to them be enough? Do I need a lot of examples of each. Would he agree? Does he have other words? Would you?
So today I thank all the musical influences in my life for exposing me to the emotions of such a broad range of music. I thank all the word smiths and all people in my life who taught me the words to encompass those emotions. But most of all, I thank the 8 year old for giving me pause to think about what I know intuitively and wonder why.