The Language of the Soul: A Reflection on Musicality and the Nuanced Craft of Songwriting by Matthew Geronimo
Editor’s Note: The following article is a reflection by Matthew Geronimo, a sophomore Christian worship major. Here, Geronimo, a multi-instrument musician on the NCU Grove band Bloom, reflects on music and the craft of songwriting.
For some time, I have defined music as the language of the soul. That phrase sounds like a performer from Woodstock. It makes me that cliché hippy guru in a movie that tells the main character, you’ve just got to feel it, man. But as is the case with most clichés, it would not be a cliché if it were not true.
Songwriting is the careful melding of music and words that will speak in a way that is clearer than any spoken language. It tells a story that connects at the emotional level, it reaches the intimate parts of our souls without making us feel violated. In fact, most of the time we invite it! It moves us in a way that is intangible, yet so noticeable. It has some quality that is so difficult to define, yet we know what it is. Somehow, the combination of pitch, rhythm, and words captures the emotions that stir in our souls and shake our hearts.
The melody of the song is the thing that we, as listeners, recognize and remember the most. Often, constructing a melody is the focus point of any person writing a song. The words then sings my soul might not have the same feeling of pouring out if it were not for the melody of the song. The highest note in the melody of the chorus lands on the word soul, and the notes before that build the momentum to a climax. This emphasis, created by the melody, invokes in us this odd desire to sing this note with such power and with a visceral amount of force, as if our ability to push air through our vocal cords would somehow reach through the clouds and touch heaven. In this aspect of music and songwriting, we find why one might call music the language of the soul.
The crafting of pitch and rhythm does not end there! What about when we are singing then sings my? The band is playing at a rapid rhythm and we feel the thumping of the low frequencies of the kick drum and the bass guitar in our chests, and we hear the pianist pounding on the keys, and suddenly, on the word soul, the band holds the one chord as our voices ring over the top of it. The riveting tension being created by the rhythm of the music makes the release on the word soul have so much more power in it that for some reason, we take it as a cue to sing louder, with more passion, with more emotion. Perhaps it characterizes how we stumble across a moment of realization when we see God’s faithfulness and working in each bit of our lives, and we may involuntarily sing with a passion and emotion that expresses our gratitude and awe in a way that simply speaking words may not capture.