Arts & Entertainment, Music

Every Song Needs an Epiphany

St. Vincent

Lesson time 09:44 min

Learn how Annie creates emotional journeys in songwriting. She also explores songs by Nirvana and Leonard Cohen that have been important to her.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Let Your Ears Be Your Guide


[00:00:00.00] [MUSIC PLAYING] [00:00:09.15] - When you're thinking about watching a film or you're thinking about reading a book, you don't read a happy story about happy people where everything works out fine. Within every narrative storytelling form, there is a transformation that takes place. It's all about tension and release. I mean, both what you're doing musically, how you're saying it lyrically, and also just the tension and release of the story. [00:00:35.93] You kind of set it up and watch it unfold, and watch characters change throughout the course of the song. I think that every song needs an epiphany. The epiphany can be the narrator of the story realizing something that they didn't previously realize by the end of the song. [00:00:54.11] It can be-- the epiphany can be that, as you're listening to the narrator talk, they're revealing more and more about the story. And then at the end, it's sort of, the epiphany is yours and you go, oh, that's what was going on. Wow, what a twist. [00:01:12.45] But also there's this-- you want to leave enough room for the audience to put themselves into the song, see situations that they've been in, feel feelings that they don't have necessarily access to or words for on a daily basis. But you put it into song, you put music next to it, you put the lyric together, and suddenly people go, I feel understood. I feel seen. I'm this person. [00:01:39.78] The idea of epiphany really crystallized for me, I think, listening to Leonard Cohen's song "Famous Blue Raincoat." The music is pensive and somber, and it's written like it's a letter. It's written like it's dialogue directed toward a couple people. [00:02:02.91] And then you realize at the end, the entirety of the story, which is, like, a story of brotherly betrayal and lost love, and just all this rich, rich story that he was able to convey almost without the listener knowing. But every lyric furthered the story. [00:02:27.07] A great example of epiphany, even just the feeling of "Lithium," which, the chorus is just, yeah. You have these, like, said with piss and vinegar kind of verse lyrics. And then the epiphany, to me, is just the big release of just screaming, yeah. You understand it. And it's just one word. [00:02:52.32] Just all of the-- just anger, and the fuck you, and the angst, and the sarcasm, and just all of it wrapped up into one. Through one word. The music is the context. I mean, the music will tell you things about the story that the character is not. So even if the character is saying the same thing and the music is changing, you go, oh, uh oh. What's going on here? [00:03:25.83] So an epiphany does not have to be a lyrical. It can absolutely be musical. It can just be that little moment of a-ha, this is why this song exists. But I think songs do need epiphanies. Otherwise, I guess you're writing about happy people for whom things are good who end up happy, and that's garbage. That's not how life is. [00:03:56.13] [MUSIC - ST...

About the Instructor

Under the stage name St. Vincent, Annie Clark has won Grammys while remaining fiercely innovative and true to herself. Now Annie is opening the door to her process to teach you how to explore your creativity. Learn how to record music, write songs, improve your guitar skills, and embrace your vulnerability. Let Annie guide you through the ups and downs of creating art so you can share what’s in your heart with the world.

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St. Vincent

Explore your creative process and embrace vulnerability with St. Vincent, the Grammy-winning, genre-defying artist and performer.

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