Choosing What Influences You

Composing music will always be a dream of mine. I did some of it in high school and actually got to conduct/perform some of it in public. For my Senior-year prom, I asked my then-girlfriend (now wife) to be my date by writing a waltz for piano and french horn. The point is that I really love the idea of carefully crafting words to convey an abstract, complicated, and multi-layered message and marrying it to music that mysteriously amplifies that poem to the level we call “music”.

I just can’t get myself to ever sit down and do it. And part of me thinks that that is alright. If your goal is to just write a song, then you have nothing to guide the songwriting. Instead, you must start with a message that you wish to communicate or a feeling you want to instill in the listener. And the cool thing is that once you have that understanding, you can actually seperate music into “good” and “bad”. Using not-so-common sense, intrinsic morality, and Judeo-Christian values, some songs are simply bad, wrong, degrading, and unhealthy. And there I go off on a tangent. I’ll have to write more on that later.

But as someone that does not want to be a professional singer/songwriter and has neither the time or desire to write a bunch of songs now, I can comfortably put off my songwriting hobby until it is more convenient. In the meantime, I can intentionally choose what artists, genres, and songs influence my future writing. All I have to do is decide what kind of music I want to write one day, then figure out what I need to listen to now so that that kind of music will already be in my head and ear when I start writing.

I have this beautiful concept that I love and respect very much. It has a deeply rich history full of honor, courage, freedom, mistakes, sorrow, joy, and pride. You may have heard of it; it is called America. I LOVE songs and soundtracks that evoke images of the old wild West, cowboys, endless forests, settlements, muskets, freedom, endless possibility, etc. You know, the home of the free and land of the brave. Free man and his family against the nature of the New World. Of course, I am also a fan of contemporary Christian music, gospel music, and, more recently, country music. Songs that tell stories, that don’t say the same thing over and over again, but unravel new information and ideas as they go. This is why I have decided to spend time playing through the Baptist Hymnal, exposing myself to the world of country and Americana music, and staying up-to-date on Christian music. By choosing the kind of music that influences me now, it will hopefully shape my writing in the future.

Although I expect to start writing prior to this event, I have it in my mind to write a song for our first child, whenever that time comes. Like I said earlier, you have to have a message first to write a song, something worth saying. I’m sure I could come up with something to say to my first son or daughter, and maybe even write a nice tune to along with it.

To end this with a broader application, we ultimately chose what influences us in every aspect of life. The shows you watch, the music you hear, the people you hang out with, your environment is constantly yet subtly affecting you. Sometimes you can control your environment, sometimes you can’t. In my home and in my car, I decide the kinds of media we consume and language we speak. At work or someone else’s house, I don’t have that authority. While you can always encourage others to live at a higher standard, you are responsible for you.

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