Songs versus stories

I’ve recently started writing songs. And was immediately struck by how much more user friendly they are than prose. A story requires each reader to actively participate, and the reader generally must do this alone.

A song, on the other hand, transmits its message on the wings of melody and harmony. It pleases the ear and soothes the mind, while requiring no effort at all to enjoy. And listening to a song is a really fun thing to do with friends. Best of all, people sometimes start singing your song, and then they become carriers for its message.

Think about it. When was the last time you memorized a story you had read, so that you could go around reciting it to other people? For songs this sort of thing happens all the time.

One could argue that songs have more limited idea bandwidth, since all thoughts must be compressed down to fit the severe constraints of the lyrical form. But sometimes that can work to increase the power of the message.

For example, it seems that every other day, when I walk into a store or a restaurant in Manhattan, they are playing John Lennon’s “Imagine”. This is a song that trashes religion, espouses atheism, disparages the concept of allegiance to one’s country, and even takes down private property and rights of ownership.

Yet everyone who listens to it gets a nice dreamy look on their face. After which, they sometimes walk around for the next few hours singing it, thereby repeating the song’s radical message for all to hear.

Try doing that with a story.

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