Where Does Music Come From?

It doesn’t come from anywhere. It’s already there.

Marc Farre
New Writers Welcome
2 min readNov 28, 2021

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acoustic guitar sitting on the subfloor of a house about to be built, with expansive view of mountains in background
Photo: Marc Farre

Every song that will ever be written already exists.

There are only 12 notes, after all (at least in Western music). Mathematically, all possible melodies are already living and hovering “out there” (as well as “in here”) — just as all colors exist all the time in the spectrum. Factor in the fourth dimension — the space between the notes, the secret code of rhythm that carries them— and it’s clear there’s a precise infinity of unborn songs out there, waiting for today’s creators and tomorrow’s to pull them in.

And how does that happen? Every artist, or anyone who aimlessly hums a melody, is simply tuning their radio to a personal, mysteriously powerful “radio station” from that universe of white noise. Certain note combinations, melodies, or themes simply strike a chord; you tune to them automatically before even realizing you’re making a song.

When I was ten and living in England, I was obsessed with a portable multiband radio in our basement (short wave, medium wave, long wave, FM) — dumbfounded as faraway music and voices simply materialized when I moved the tall vertical tuning line left, and then right, and then left again.

I’ve come to realize that this is how songs are born — we’re fumbling around that dial of infinite music through the filter of our own personal taste, more or less alert to “what wants to happen.”

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. (Leonard Cohen: “Anthem”)

Rehearsing a song I’ve already written or just fooling around on the guitar or piano, I’ll stumble on a “wrong note” — something I didn’t expect to hear. And that “wrong” note (or chord) will suddenly open a window I didn’t notice before and shine a new light: a scary-good new feeling—a sudden hit of heaven.

That feeling is chemical. To me, it feels like falling in love. (Like love, once you’ve tasted it, you have to work hard to bring it to its highest expression.)

So what is the spark that gives birth to that “something” that’s always been there lurking around our collective-private cosmos? That, of course, is the mystery, the miracle — the divine gift of creative inspiration that we all seek. Yet, when you look for it, you usually can’t find it.

Fortunately, when you aren’t looking for it, sometimes it finds you.

That moment of pure grace when a highly limited earthling stumbles on something, and the first inkling of a new universe — one that’s always been there, hiding in plain sight — crashes right through.

Here are some of the melodies that have crashed through my own personal radio station.

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Marc Farre
New Writers Welcome

Writer, recording artist, traveler, faux-polymath. Nothing human is foreign to me. marcfarre.com