Music and the Spiritual world
By Alexis Tapp
My friend, Ben, recently asked me to write something for the DSA blog. I told him I had no idea what I could contribute to the blog or its readers, and he said, “Come on, let’s not have too many slices of Humble Pie, Alexis.” I was taken aback by his comment, feeling my humility, not to mention my lack of confidence, was certainly justified, but I began to feel somewhat swayed. “How about something that comes naturally to you,” he suggested. Still struggling with the whole humility thing, I asked, “What might that be?” He answered a bit too quickly if you ask me, “How about Spirituality and Music?” I think maybe Ben knew all along what he wanted. “Okay,” I surprised myself by feeling slightly more capable. So, here goes Alexis, the Blogger.
I will start with a question for you. How often do we artists think about why and how music connects us to the universe and its Creator? As for me, a songwriter, fine artist, and a person of faith, I picture myself as a vessel, an opening up to inspiration by something beyond my physicality. I try to do my best with these tidbits from beyond, hoping, upon completion of a project, that I will offer something worthy and entertaining back to the universe. So, for me, I think about that connection quite a lot. Once messages are received, they pass through my view of life, and I share them through my artistic outlets, a major motivating factor in my life. I rise in the morning, knowing I am a songwriter and a visual artist that seeks God. I may not be John Lennon, “P Diddy,” or Andrew Lloyd Wright, but I am still capable of sharing my faith, my spiritual journey, and my personal experiences through music. I would honestly be thrilled to reach the more realistic Carol Bayer Sanger or Billie Eilish status.
But, for now, what I do have is a beautiful community of songwriters that I have grown with throughout the years. Participating with the Dallas Songwriters Association, I can bounce around my ideas in a safe and nurturing environment as I continue to hone my skills and bring new pieces to life. It’s good to have a community, to have people with whom I can share my interests and common goals. From a very early age, I found myself attracted to music and naturally inclined to sing, and I just loved making up my songs. The backyard swing became my go-to stage, where I would croon my little compositions to the neighbors for hours on end. Music’s always resonated within my spirit, and these moments made me feel something special that I remember to this day. Most musicians can probably recall their first recital or the day they picked up an instrument for the first time, but what drives us to this unique, musical place in our hearts?
I believe it is humans trying to co-exist with spirit. It’s our nature to want to make a difference, to affect the world positively, and we have to access and offer our best to do so. Whether we call it communing with God or using our muse or even if we think it just happens, people, in general, want to show love, and as songwriters, we want to touch or connect to others through our stories. A song may cause a listener to laugh, cry, ponder a message, or let loose and dance in celebration. We’ve all experienced strong feelings while listening to music. Music is such a powerful tool and capable of touching the masses, and I have always been captivated by its potency and magic. If you are still with me here, I suspect you may feel the same about music. We’ve plenty of evidence that one song, one painting, one poem, or one sculpture can reach into the multitudes to transcend the distance between people in a single moment. One person’s beliefs or vision can form into a musical masterpiece and
move hearts all over the world. Some survive against the odds and despite the plethora of musical choices, living on throughout the ages, bringing communities of people together no matter their different cultures, experiences, or mindsets. I have not personally achieved this lofty goal in any of my artist endeavors yet, but I’m certainly a willing seeker on the path. So how do we, as lyricists and composers, find the inspiration to offer our best to the world? As a spiritual person, I see my ideas as being delivered from God, angels, and the life situations that come my way. Of course, not everyone will see it as I do. Even though this may sound strange, I feel compelled to share that if an idea or vision enters my mind, and I don’t make a note of it RIGHT then, I consider it disrespectful to the Giver. I fear these ethereal gifts could just pass me by and land with another more willing recipient if I do not appreciate them enough to write them down and eventually give them life. But this is just my experience, my take, and I confess I have a short memory for all deliveries made during these extraordinary visits. Given too much time, my mind is just off to the next dozen things, and that gift is gone forever.
An essential part of this spiritual transaction is that I stay humble enough to accept that these are not mine, that they are beyond my person and that their arrival probably should not boost my ego. In other words, I think of them as a gift from spirit and not of my own making or brilliance. Indeed, I must be willing, open, and ready to accept these gifts and use them.
Each one of these divine offerings that is not taken to heart may indeed find some fully prepared, songwriting soul to bless. Who knows, if I had been listening, “Chain Breaker” might have landed on me instead of Zack Williams. Not that God necessarily cared who got His message out, but I would have enjoyed that so much, but there’s that ego again. What’s a girl to do? The way I experience lyric writing is a mixed bag. While this act can serve up a rollercoaster ride of joy, pain, therapy, and communion with God, it can also provide pure entertainment. In my growth as a human with a soul, I search for my spiritual self and try to listen and pay attention when the spirit enters my realm. Once I receive a gift and jot down my notes or record them into my phone, I can work on structure and story as I have ample time. Whatever the message looks like when I receive it: whether I hear only a few words, a full musical idea, a new plot concept, or a glimpse of lessons of my past, I try to take each as an opportunity to create with the Creator. I certainly have poems and songs and paintings that I attribute to such moments of inspiration. These are treasures to me, but I have also had files that I eventually discarded from the category of “What was I thinking?” Maybe my angels were having a bad day, or I was having a filtering problem. Either way, sometimes it is simply a matter of garbage in, garbage out.
Whether things come to me while driving, during my sleep, rising from a good soak in the tub, tug at me during church service, spring from a casual chat with a friend, or if they catch me in a quiet moment amid chaos, I need to write notes as soon as possible. Sometimes, a gift comes during pain, turmoil, and angry noise. When this happens, I find it harder to make decent notes, but I try. I cannot say it enough: whenever the gift enters my consciousness, I must be willing to write something, however, jumbled and erratic, while the idea is still fresh in my mind. Even with rough notes, I can usually recreate the concept later, but I promise you that I have never recreated one of these moments of inspiration when I did not take any notes at all and done so immediately. Of course, it can be a challenge if I am sleeping. I have found notes by my bedside that are almost indiscernible, but the keyword here is “almost”. Half written notes are better than none. I’m happy to say that I have a couple of favorite songs that came from some “sleepy scribbles” that were just waiting patiently on my nightstand the next morning. I’ve learned to keep a note pad and pen nearby as I sleep…and even on a table by the bathtub.
If I am driving, I wait for a stoplight or pull over and sing into my phone recorder. I do not, of course, encourage the use of the phone while the vehicle is moving. Sometimes I’ve repeated lyrical or melodic motifs over and over and over until I could reach a stopping point to hit the record button. Whew! But no matter how you keep track of your inspirational thoughts, it pays to be prepared. Whatever you feel is your source of inspiration, how do you follow up with its development? This unanswered query is a subject for another blog. I am all over the place with this next subject, so I will see you back here another day to carry on the search for spirituality, inspiration, and music. Until next time. Alexis
Currently, Alexis is serving the Dallas Songwriters community as the Director of Membership & Lyrics Contest for the Dallas Songwriters Association (DSA). Here is her complete profile with the samples of her music, poetry, and paintings can be viewed at: