I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of literary texts having a musical quality, though I am still learning exactly what that means.  I also happen to admire specific works that literally incorporate music.  I have been attempting to achieve both of these feats while also seeking to innovate upon them.  I have a story under review in which I incorporated music into a seamless experience of art.  It’s not necessarily horrifying, per se, in that one.

I am, however, seeking to explore one of those all-encompassing moments, an experience of unfathomable terror and totality, in a short story that I am currently writing.   There is an original song within it.   The point is that the music is ironically linked to the scene in which the character finds himself.  He witnesses this earlier, has a vision of it, the first song hauntingly and ironically interacting with a moment, and then it comes back to him, his vision realized, the music and all.

I imagine moments in which the art on the walls, the music in the speakers, one’s thoughts, and the actions and speech of others suddenly become a totality, if only ever so briefly, moments in which we suddenly experience power(lessness) before a force that is unknown and yet keenly felt through experience.  It has taken me a long time to learn how to articulately convey this to others through writing, the experience thereof from the inside and outside perspectives.  I have also been devising innovative ways through which it might be deployed beyond the page.    

I was writing a song today though.  It’s still a work in progress, the story and the song.  It’s a process: songwriting, story writing, artmaking, as are all productive activities.  The idea is for the song to have one meaning at time 1 and an entirely different meaning at time 2 in the wake of a shock, a sudden transformation in the perceptual field, in the intervening events and knowledge of the individual experiencing the music, or in the identity of the beholder.  This can also come in the form of slight tweaks to the lyrics or distortions in the presentation of the instrumental recording. 

Anyhow, the process was messy; process is messy.  That said, the idea is that the end result emerges immaculate, relatively immaculate at least.  I am not a perfectionist, but I am stringent, especially with my own work.  I went into the process knowing exactly what I wanted: the fitting/ironic song that would blend with the setting and the events within a singular room at time 1 and time 2.  It doesn’t just flow from me though.  If only I were like a soft serve dispenser, metaphorically of course—consistent and smooth with constant creative output of high quality. 

This is how the process actually unfolded today.  I was sitting alongside the lake inside my vehicle and I decided that it was time to create the song for the penultimate chapter of The Lynchpin.  I wasn’t sure where to start, but when I conceived of the plan, I had a feeling that it would be brilliant and deeply uncanny. 

I thought to myself, “it should be eerie.  It’s a song about…” and then I paused; I felt creatively blocked.  My mind suddenly felt empty, like a vacuum.  I was tempted to give up and I thought, “It’s hard to recreate the poignancy of his initial vision.”  I felt ever so briefly as if I might never think of a way to achieve my own artistic vision that I had hoped to achieve with the song.  “Perhaps”, I thought, “if I stop now, it will all come to me in a flash of inspiration at some point in the future.”  “Perhaps”, I thought to myself, “I will be in ‘the zone’ again sometime soon.”  Nonetheless, I decided to persist.   

I’ll be honest, there is sex and blood.  It’s not pretty.  There is an aesthetic reason for it all though.  Thus, I thought about the music that I like to listen to during sex, trying to find disparate pieces of inspiration, seeking to determine what the instrumentals of the song might sound like if I knew how to write that part already. The style is smooth electronica with simple lyrics.  The lyrics fade into the background and it makes perfect ambient noise with a slow rhythm.  Other songs started coming to mind too though. 

Sometimes it’s like flying through space and known songs draw you to them with a force of gravity.  You have to resist though and keep on flying around until you find something within you that’s like a natural spring from which a spark of an original melody begins to emerge.  It’s incredibly frustrating because so often all that I can hear are the song of others.  Thus, I returned to focus on the poetic part. 

I thought to myself, “She can hear it before they enter the studio, but the words are muffled.  It’s about touch, the way the touch of another person feels.  There is where we find the irony.”  Then I began to write a poem. 

Touch, the torch, 
skin to skin,
beneath the surface…
and in the win[d]!

I paused then to assess my creation.  “I like the idea of including the torch.  It’s poignant in a different way.  I’m not feeling the music right now though”, I said to myself.  Then I continued to write. 

Your breath like wind,
against my neck
trailing down—
a happy trek.  

It was already going in a different direction that I had hoped.  Thus, I said to myself, “We will consider this the seed of a song.  This song will be married to the music once I find it within me again.  It needs a chorus.”  Then I returned to writing.    

Then a sharp sensation,
chills down my spine, 
flames of passion,
there is no line.  

Yes, when you touch me,
all is fair, the world alight,
and without a care. 

It all melts then, 
me into you, 
how I love
what you do.  

I paused then for about five minutes and I did nothing.  I was frustrated because I wrote and invested time, but it wasn’t what I wanted.  All that I liked was the inclusion of the torch.  It’s poetic and too beautiful if you know where I’m going with this.  Then suddenly, I felt inspired and it sort of became musical ever so briefly. 

Touch me, touch me,
Yes, touch me, touch me—
ohhh, right there.
Touch me, touch me, 
truth and dare.
Touch me, touch me,
mon yaysayer. 

I was just some weird guy sitting in my car in the park laughing to himself along the lakeside writing a song with the above lyrics, which is playing on the radio while a man stands within a crime scene smothered in blood.  I stopped laughing eventually though and I thought to myself, “Anyhow, I like the idea of including the torch in a song about touching during which a mob invades to violently disrupt the sex party.  There should, however, be a lyric that makes reference to knives.  It might become too unsubtle then though…”

As I continued to reflect upon what I had created, I felt blocked again.  I pondered what to do.  It was so foggy today, but it was beginning to clear.  After a few minutes, I decided to drive back to the house where I hoped to continue making progress.  I was hungry too and I wanted to eat as soon as I returned.  Thus, I did so and then, a little bit later, I was suddenly struck by a moment of musical inspiration.  A song began to emerge from within me. 

Yea when you touch me,
I drop to my knee
Yea when you touch me
You’re all that I see.

Yea when you touch me
I say oh pretty please
Yea when you touch me,
I feel everything.  

Cuz your skin like a flame
fire that can’t be tamed
up against mine 
do you feel the same?

I stopped then.  It had a melody, but it really wasn’t what I wanted.  The lyrics were pretty crappy too. I actually really disliked it.  Worst of all, it didn’t work with the artwork that I was seeking to integrate it into.  I also said, “It’s not the style of music that I’m going for in that chapter.” I thought that I would have to abandon it—a sunk cost of time and effort. 

However, I have this process.  I take the lyrical poem and the melody that I am able to find, the musically infused lyrics, and then I marry them together.  It doesn’t always work out.  I think of it as marrying an Apollonian and Dionysian force, intertwining them like two snakes.  I am naive, but I believe that this might be the ousia of the tragic art form.  I’ve done it a couple of times before and this is the most horrifically integrated that I have ever gotten the song to become internally and within its nested environment of the story and the art within. 

At first, I started visualizing the chapter, “How would I describe the instrumental aspect of the song?  It’s slow electronica, soft, the kind of music I like in the background…. The kind of music that usually stays in the background, the words blending together, until they don’t…  they stick out to the officer…  they captured his attention and he focused in on them, the weight of each word suddenly felt.”

Then I began to marry them together and to blend them in with the chapter, details within the chapter bending to the music, the lyrical and musical becoming one, the melody evolving to become more complex.  It’s still very simple though, a work in progress, but it provides the illusion that I wanted to create. 

Yea, when you touch me,
warm against my skin,
a torch of passion
and I’m letting you in. 

Yea, when you touch me,
send chills down my spine
a knife through skin
straight to my mind.

Yea, when you touch me,
we make sensual art
i feel you on my body,
and in my heart. 

Yea, when you touch me,
I feel everything
and when you touch me,
you’ll be making me sing.

It could actually already be a full song as is; it’s just very simple, too simple.  All that I really need right now is the symbolically potent snippet for the story. Sometimes though, I write the whole damn song. 


It’s May now, almost June, and I’m still writing The Covidiot. I decided that the song was too gimmicky.

To be continued...

Copyright: Thomas Christopher Elliott, 2021.