We listen to the lyrics of a song. Someone sings a sorrow, a joy, any event. What exactly are we listening to? Perhaps it is about the life of the author or author, perhaps that of the character that appears in the letter or perhaps another or others. Who is who? What relationship is there between one and the other?
The first person
The person who sings is interpreting a letter that clearly explains that he misses a partner, someone who is no longer by his side, and goes on to tell details of the relationship, the things they did when they were together or the moment in which one decided to leave the other
The lyrics, the music and the voice of the person who is singing merge into one thing even if it is only for three or four minutes, in a powerful experience that we all know, in a kind of trance and, when the song ends, it is It is difficult not to be convinced that we have witnessed a confession, an account of something completely personal, a real fragment of the life of whoever was the interpreter.
Yes, I know. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit but I suppose you will understand exactly what I mean.
And if the lyrics also include words like me, you, he or she and even some proper name, how can we not identify the story and its interpreter?
It is the magic of face-to-face arts, such as theater, for example.
Something feigned, simulated or approximate that our brains accept as true, as representative, at least, of a personal truth, of real facts or emotions.
It is one of the legendary powers of songs. But, also, it can lead us to a mistake, to a misunderstanding, to a fiction, and if we write songs perhaps also to self-censorship, modesty, shame.
This phenomenon illustrates one of the biggest tricks, so to speak, of literature in general, the autobiographical element and its alternatives.
The fact is that we know without a doubt that someone, a specific person, wrote what we read, what we sing, in the same way that we link by default who speaks with what he says.
And that certainty leads us directly to identify to one extent or another the author with the facts that are exposed. And that identification is true, but the measure of that relationship and the fidelity between what actually happened and what has been written can be diverse.
If we focus on the cases in which the writer uses the first person and, furthermore, is the one who narrates the story, we might think that the thing is clear and whatever is said or happens in the text will refer directly to the author’s real life
But it may perfectly not be so and that much or little of what is written has never happened to him and does not have a biographical veracity, so to speak.
How can we know or create one type of text or another?
To solve this, critics and literary scholars distinguish between the autobiographical and the so-called autofiction.
For a text to be considered autobiographical, it is necessary that the author, at some point, explicitly commit to it. It is the so-called reading pact between whoever writes and whoever reads.
And, even if the author’s memory betrays him or his own fantasy kidnaps him during writing, this pact places him in a position in which he will be explaining real events while the reader or receiver agrees to believe them as such.
This is the autobiographical pact that can be applied to newspapers, memoirs or texts where fidelity to what really happened is a vital part of the artistic artifact.
But, as we have said, nothing prevents a writer of a song from altering things in a text, lyrics or story. To disguise or hide some small or large details, to be inspired freely or to lie with one intention or another, if you want to see it that way.
If we have talked about the autobiographical pact, at the other extreme we have the fictional or fictional pact where the truth is substituted for what is credible, for what could have been but was not and has been invented for an artistic purpose. It is also a pact in which whoever reads or listens accepts that game, that strategy and pretends to be facing a reality that was not.
So, to locate that author or author or singer for what concerns us who uses the first person when writing, who tells his story and that of others and others involved but does not guarantee at any time the complete veracity of the facts, it is he invented the word and the concept autofiction.
This beautiful verbal construction helps us to describe those texts that seem autobiographical but in which some elements, names, places or details may or may not be true and we will never be sure that they are faithfully autobiographical.
Here, halfway between fiction and confession, is where we can often locate the lyrics of the songs, when the reading pact is ambiguous and we basically believe some things like the one who sings is the protagonist of what he sings and other things that are sung because we simply do not believe them.
In that ambiguity appears, oddly enough, a very valuable space for those who read or listen to the song, for their active participation without losing the closeness of the first person, of the biographical, even gossip.
It also puts a song on a not so personal terrain, not so I talk about myself and my things and you listen to them and believe them, in a situation that perhaps more people can make their own and better fit into their own shared experiences .
The personal is inevitable. Each participant in a communicative act contributes his experience, his understanding and even his interests to what is being dealt with.
A person who writes any story or any type of text, in reality, is going to leave his personal mark on it: something of his vocabulary, of his syntax, of his character, of his everything.
Even if he writes in the third person, even if he recounts facts that have no relation to his life, nor to his values, nor to his hopes, nor to his sleeplessness.
Much more if we write in the first person and affirm or pretend to be the person in addition to the character of the text.
But the personal element is also ourselves as listeners, as receivers and as receptacles of the story, of the emotion, of whatever happens in the song.
This clarifies a few things regarding musical compositions, works of art in general, and even our daily lives.
The first thing is that without receivers there is no communication, there is no work, there is practically nothing.
Each one of us not only receives the stimulus of the piece of music but also completes it. It is something unavoidable. We are not passive listeners when listening to a song, it is impossible.
Therefore, it is inevitable that everyone reads everything that comes their way and that reading, that perspective, that piece of ours that we add to the song is what gives it its particular and definitive form for us.
For this reason, the self of a songwriter, the ego even, plus the self that a singer sings and our self in a certain time and place results in a concrete experience that we call listening to a song.
You can do the task of investigating and dissociating the writer from the singer and even from yourself, be aware that the broken heart of that singer is not his or yours, but perhaps this does not have much importance if you are a listening listener enjoying it or not of an interpretation.
If we look at the matter from the side of whoever creates the song, it can result in embarrassment for expressing your own experiences or feelings, or the feeling of being an impostor for perhaps writing stories or anything that you have not personally experienced and similar situations. .
But, once seen all this panorama of perspectives, personalities and other particular situations, the truth is that it does not matter much.
That we value a song by the degree of truth regarding the life of the author or the performers does not make much sense.
A song is not an essay, nor a memoir, nor anything else outside of it, although it may contain many of these and other areas.
So let’s listen to songs without fear and without reluctance, they are works to communicate and express our ideas and feelings, to be shared.
And let’s write song lyrics the same, without fear, without censoring ourselves just because.
Let’s sing from the me without further ado because, when it reaches the brain of the audience, it will already be a you or a us that will have made it their own and we as composers and composers will begin to disappear and, if we are lucky, the song will last much longer than We.