Remember all those literature classes where the teachers asked you to write a paper describing the theme of a novel and analyzing the different literary tools the author used to develop that theme?
I used to groan at the thought of having to pick apart a piece of literature like that. Often I felt like I was reading way too much into things the author did in order to be able to say that the use of such-and-such literary device was part of the author’s grand plan to develop the theme. Do authors really plan so extensively how they will foster a theme?
Now that I’ve started composing, I think the answer is usually “yes.”
One of the most important stages of composition for authors and artists of all kinds is choosing a theme and giving thoughtful consideration as to how that theme will be developed. For musicians, we have both the medium of words and music at our disposal, and we should not overlook the powerful tools available within each of those art forms.
Over the past several months I’ve been slowly working on a new song about recognizing my weaknesses and crying out to God for strength, help, and purpose. The first couple verses are written, and I’m currently deciding what direction to take the second half of the song and drafting a transition/interlude section to guide the listener onward.
Throughout this drawn-out process of composing, I’ve reflected more deeply on the theme I want to develop through this song, why it matters, and how I can best convey my message to listeners. Here’s a preview of some of my lyrics so far:
“I might stumble but You’ll bring me back again/to the One I’ve been holding to”
“My flaws, my Achilles’ heel, they’re all that I see/but I know You can.”
What are your thoughts about developing a theme? How do you go through this part of the planning process when you are creating a work?