Wikipedia defines lyrics as “a set of words that make up a song.” This definition seems to imply that lyrics are the building blocks of a song, which is an interesting concept. If we consider the purpose of words as forms of communication, this implies that the meaning of songs is heavily based on lyricism. Does the meaning of a song depend on lyrics? The obvious answer is no because otherwise, songs without lyrics would be meaningless and thus have no reason to exist. Entire genres would be left meaningless if this were true. It’s fairly obvious that the melodies of Yiruma and subtle riffs of Pink Floyd can bring just as much meaning as the lyricism of Lupe Fiasco or storytelling of Sufjan Stevens. All of this makes one wonder what exactly this “meaning” behind music is.
In my eyes, the meaning of almost every song created is fairly aligned with the principles of a philosophy of art summarized by the French phrase “l’art pour l’art” or “art for art’s sake.” These ideas are opposed to the social realistic idea that a work of art is only “true art” if it has a moral value or utilitarian function. Yet, the philosophy in its original form is rather restrictive, saying that things with moral or utilitarian value cannot be considered “true art.”
To me, “true art” is based on the impressions that are tied to the work. Art is formed by the impressions of the creator and those impressions create new ones onto the audience. These impressions may be expressions of emotions or just general feelings that the artist may or may not have meant to convey. Art’s importance doesn’t lie in a widespread uniform meaning. Rather, art’s importance and meaning is highly subjective, dependent on each individual who interacts with the piece. For many artists, creating is their must and participating in it is a necessity in their life and that defines their life. For many consumers, art is an inspiration, leading them to pursue their own must.
I really meant for this post to go somewhere more focused on lyrics vs music as a source of music, focusing on Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie and Lowell and Illinois and in Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Like to Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, but instead the ideas from a day in AP Lit took over, which isn’t terrible. Maybe I’ll talk about the other ideas later on.