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What would make a song on a specific topic work?
By Bill Pere - 10/14/2010 - 01:47 PM EDT

Quynh Le:

The things that would make a "longing for home" song work are exactly the same things that would make any song about any topic work – good songcrafting that communicates to a wide  audience with clarity and impact. Specifically, you'd want to take a topic that a wide range of people can relate to, and present it in a way that communicates and resonates with them.   It needs to be concrete rather than abstract,  conversational in nature, and most importantly, have the right balance between specific references and those which are open to personalization (NOT "interpretation", but personalization) – for more on this key topic see my Muses Muse article on "Interpreting Interpretation".

The topic of "longing for home" is certainly universal enough to be relevant to many people.  You want to leave appropriate doors and windows in your song to allow the listener to enter and personalize,  but not so general as to allow them to overlay their own meaning on what you are saying. (i.e. they can come into your home, but not rearrange the furniture).

For example:

If you just say:

"I miss my home

I want to go back there"

It is so general that anyone can give it any meaning they want, and in so doing, you do not really connect with the listener about what YOU mean to say. Also, this gives no insight as to why the singer is saying these things, and it provides no stimulation for the senses, thus nothing to entice the listener to invest their time and attention.

If you say:

"I long to be home

To once again feel the touch of my childhood memories"

Now you have a universal statement that anyone can personalize as to where "home" is, but gives some specific context and motivation for the statement, and evokes the sense of touch.   It starts to balance the general and the specific, makes clear your intended meaning, and beckons a listener to enter.

If you say:

"I long to be home in Kansas City

To once again feel the touch of my childhood memories"

It now shrinks the degree of connection that  people can make because most people don’t come from Kansas City.

If you say:

"I long to be home

To once again see the mountains where I played as a child"

It is specific and visual, but again limits the direct connection only to people who come from mountain regions.

 

One of the great crafting skills of the songwriter is to find the balance between specificity and generality, while always being very clear about why the singer is saying what he/she says, and what the message of the song is.

Another key part of a successful song on this topic would be to make clear why the singer is away from home, and why they cannot return.  Again, the same balance applies between specificity and generality, while maintaining clarity of meaning.

And of course this always assumes that you give proper attention to the prosody/phrasing of the words and the sonic activity and ping points, so that the words do not sound flat.

Musically, the role of the music here would be to support the lyric, so whether it is nostalgic, uptempo, culturally timbral, etc is a matter of how you decide to present what you are saying, and make sure the music is properly married to the mood/feel/message of the words.

You can read much more on these topics in several chapters of the complete Songcrafters' Coloring Book

For an example of a home/nostalgic song that is well written, see "Tempo of Time" by Kay Pere (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/kaypere)

Good luck with your writing.




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