The other day I was trying to read while listening to JS Bach’s Cello Suites. I say “trying” because the music kept grabbing my attention. Eventually, I closed the book and my eyes, letting the sounds of the cello drift me away.
Usually, closing my eyes while classical music is playing lulls me to sleep, but this day, my mind wandered and I began thinking about why I enjoy doing what I do – reading and writing & playing and listening to music. The answer was so simple, that I have to share.
Music and writing are comprised of simple building blocks.
26 letters and 12 notes.
And look at what those simple blocks have wrought! Everything from the complexity of a Mozart Symphony to simple punk of The Ramones and the heaviness of James Joyce to the children’s stories of Maurice Sendak and everything in between.
I find it amazing that stringing letters together form words, which form sentences, which form paragraphs, which form chapters, which form books. Or song lyrics, poetry, essays, memoirs, novels, short stories, plays – and all the different forms they can take.
12 notes of music can be combined in so many different ways (we’re talking Western music here) – stringing them together one note at a time, or piling one on top of the other to form chords, played at different speeds, different instruments playing different things but combining into a whole. And it gives us music of all different feelings – jazz, blues, rock, reggae, dance, hip-hop, classical.
Human history is full of creative people who have taken these 26 letters and 12 notes and done amazing things with them. Some of them have used those blocks to create something so new, it has never been seen or heard before. Others have taken old ideas and breathed new life into them, creating something that seems new, but it enjoyable just the same.
Think of these blocks as you read the words of Hemingway, Shakespeare or Tolkien – or when you listen to Beethoven, Muddy Waters or Queen. They are using the same simple tools that are available to you.
What will you do with them?