Metaphors As a Songwriting Tool

A metaphor is a statement or concept connecting two or more ideas, people or conditions indicating some similarity between them. The strength of a metaphor comes from two sources. The first is the artist or songwriter whose lyrical abilities permit them to conceive of very insightful or clever connections, which in turn allows them to develop inventive metaphors that expose a deeper meaning or a hidden awareness. The other source of the strength of a metaphor comes from the listener.

Words and music are the raw material of songwriting. The music eases a person’s mind and body into a mental and physiological state conducive with a hypnotic trance, while the words link a mind to its memories of experiences, emotional states, and a person’s sense of self. And once in a trance state, words will guide the person through the experience produced by a songwriter with a series of lyrical commands, whether the songwriter knows this or not. The hypnotic state can vary greatly across a wide range from the ecstatic and wild, as in tribal ritual like voodoo dances and punk pits, to the meditative as in yoga and sleep.

When our language deviates from a strict scientific usage it leaves poor customs, bad linguistic habits, clichés, faulty logic, and metaphors to rule the use of ideas. This explains partly why people can’t help but walk around in a hypnotic trance. For most people, when reality, ideas, and communication about reality aren’t exactly in alignment, reality becomes unreal. And the further our concepts deviate from reality, the deeper the dissociative state is and the less real reality becomes.

Truth = concepts in exact alignment with reality, a statement of fact.

Falsehood = concepts out of alignment with reality, a statement of lies.

Metaphors play with these aspects of truth and falsehood by blurring the lines between the two via language. The metaphor not only blurs truth and falsehood, but it also fails to differentiate and clarify either one. This is where the metaphor derives its ability to guide a person into a hypnotic state and why the use of metaphors is an extremely powerful songwriting tool. The songwriter who can deliberately place effective metaphors within their music has the power to hold a huge sway over their hearers because their songs will always leave a deep impression on the audience.

A mind or groups of minds governed by falsehood are more susceptible to induction (introduction to a trance state.) Why? Because when a mind is governed by falsehood it is not grounded in truth, the facts of reality, and can therefore be easily led or misled to perceive altered states of reality (illusions) and of consciousness.

Consciousness is a deliberate use of our state of awareness by our span of attention and we are only aware when we are perceiving reality and conceptualizing about it. So when a person cuts him or herself off from that connection between reality and consciousness, they are in fact in a hypnotic trance surrounded by illusions created by themselves or others.

Lyrically, metaphors can be classified as secondary inductions because they activate material already in a person’s mind that is buried under the surface of their waking consciousness and is called forward with a metaphor in a person’s mind.

Verbal tools that assist in the activation of metaphors are words or phrases that evoke a sense of deserving, a call for the use of imagination, or memories of past events. In general, words or concepts of this character trigger mental states that bring about a potential hypnotic state related to a unique composition and song lyric. An innovative metaphor carefully constructed by a clever writer can only achieve power within the mind of the listener, but it’s the imagination, intelligence and experience (or lack thereof) of the listener that can inhibit or enhance the potential strength of a great metaphor. Therefore, a great metaphor can only achieve power in the mind of a listener when its potential power is revealed or viewed in its fullness by a mind capable of seeing it. In contrast, a lack of imagination, a lack of intelligence, and a lack of experience can each or in combination dampen the potential emotional impact or induction potential of a cleverly crafted metaphor.

Essentially, there are two phases of thought that a listener must be able to bring into action in order that the full inductive power of a metaphor can be released. Both of these phases of thought directly correspond to a mind’s nearness or distance from truth or falsehood, which assists a metaphor to release its full power or to have no power at all. These two phases of thought correspond exactly with the two layers of emotional or mental depth that a good metaphor presents to a listener. metaphor examples

The first layer is the superficial layer which means the listener’s mind perceives the basic connection or association the writer is making with their metaphor. At this level of thought, there is little emotional investment or imagination required of the listener. The second layer goes much deeper emotionally and imaginatively. In this phase of thought, the listener’s mind associates freely beyond the immediate and obvious connection which was made during the superficial level of conscious thought. What this means is that the associations extend further than the obvious connection of the metaphor and additional associations are made with the effect of shifting the listener’s mind into a dreamlike state of consciousness.

Therefore, superficially there is an obvious association making an immediate connection, but on a deeper level the imaginative mode of thought searches for a nuanced interpretation which reveals the true power of the metaphor to bring about a hypnotic state. The power or strength of a metaphor in songwriting is clearly limited or enhanced by the existence or non-existence of imagination, intelligence, or experience within the listener.

Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that when a listener is able to perceive a powerful metaphor whether or not it was intended by the songwriter, the listener enters into the second layer of the an induction caused by the metaphor and begins to associate freely throughout their physical and mental environment. This is the point at which the effect of the metaphor becomes unpredictable. Because songwriting is not a science, but an art, we cannot fully know at a distance how a particular song or song lyric will affect a person. We cannot know what things a mind will associate with a metaphor, verse, or chorus you’ve written and what the full impact of that experience will be on the audience. Because once again the strength of a metaphor is limited or expanded by the imagination, intelligence, and experience of the listener’s mind, but that a mind governed by falsehood is much more susceptible to the trance state.

For a committed fan, who devotes segments of their life listening to certain kinds of music or to particular bands and artists the associative process is very active, emotional, and their relationship with this artist tends to be a lifelong affair. In many cases, entire sections of this person’s life can be defined by a handful of songs by a few of their most cherished songwriters or bands. Often lyrics from favorite songs become philosophical statements about this person’s life and become guides to their behavior until new songs replace the old, even though they rarely do.


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