Quarterly Review

An E-zine of Articles, Insights, and Ideas for Artists,
Musicians, and Content Creators


(April – June 2012)

Table of Contents

The 4 Pillars to Great Songwriting………………………3
The Brain, the Ear, and the Sense of Hearing ………6
The Skillful Use of Questions in Songwriting……….9
Music and the Kama Sutra…………………………………13
Hooks and Earworms ……………………………………….17

© Copyright 2012, Marc Avante

The 4 Pi llar s to Gr eat Songwr i ti ng
By Marc Avante
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Recently I was thinking back to this last year and I was proud of
how many new pieces of music I was able to complete. I
remembered which ones I really enjoyed working on and which
ones didn't come out as well as I thought they would. I also
remembered how surprised I was about the ones that come out
much better than I had originally conceived.

Then I turned my thoughts to some of the ideas I formulated
about how I approach composing music and lyrics. So I put my
thoughts in writing and here they are shared with you.
1) Words (the symbolization and concentration of action)
Words are the building blocks of complex thinking and language.
Our use and development of language forms the basis of our
relationships with others and dictates some part of the emotions
we feel about our experiences. Some believe that language

shapes our thoughts, while others say our language shape our
experiences. While that debate is continuous, we are safe to
assume that there is a dual relationship which is dynamic –
interactive and interdependent. Spoken words make people
think of specific things and cue them to generate a
corresponding emotion. And lyrics dramatized through song
contract words into thoughts and emotions, which generate a
physical response in a person’s physiology. This might lead to
crying, laughter, smiling, or resentment.

2) Music (the codification and structure of sound)
Music has its basis in raw sound. The organization of sound or
musical pitches is what fundamentally constitutes music.
Compositional forms will range from the simple to the complex.
Simple music is qualified by its accessibility to most people,
while complex music provides entertainment and a challenge to
those whose minds are active. One of the keys to great
songwriting is the perfect marriage between words and music.

3) Human Evaluation (determining the emotionally appropriate
message to match audience expectations with the composition of

The subject of Human Evaluation comes from Dianetics, the
science of mind developed by L. Ron Hubbard. In the “bible” of
Human Evaluation "Science of Survival” you are taught how to
gauge, judge, and evaluate the average tone (or emotional state)
of the audience so that you can communicate to them at their
level of reception in a given moment. In split seconds, you need
to be able to answer the questions: Who is your audience? What
are their expectations? Are the messages in my lyrics meeting
the crowd’s expectations? Are their emotional needs being met
with my musical presentation? Are my songs too fast, too slow,
too long, too short, too simple, too complex, etc? All of which
have to be answered in order to correctly present to an audience
with specific expectations.


4) Communication (emotional packaging, presentation, and
connection with the audience.)
Once you’ve identified the average emotional tone for the
audience you’re presenting to, you are now in a position to
communicate to them. Words and music are both means of
communication, but in themselves they are not communication.
Communication is something else. Communication is something
that happens within the mind of another to whom you are
communicating. It is what is received by an individual audience
member through the medium of words and lyrics.

These were some of the realizations I had about my ideas about
music and songwriting. I had a breakthrough this last year and
reached a point of artistic success as a short-term milestone by
completing about 30 songs in an 8 month period of time. These
ideas were helpful to me and I wanted to share them with you.
For every artist of any school or medium it is important to know
how to communicate with your market or audience utilizing the
4 Pillars of Great Songwriting, so study and learn them
thoroughly. Then when you put them into practice you’ll see the
results in quantity and quality of your art, whether or not, it's
songwriting and in audience response.

Related Articles:
Using the 5 Magic Emotions in Your Songwriting
Words in Songwriting and their Power as Emotional Triggers
(Part 3)

The Brai n, the Ear, and the Sense of Heari ng
By Marc Avante
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I am so fascinated with the way music affects us. Sometimes it
changes our emotions, stimulates our imagination, or relaxes us.
But have you ever really thought about how sound, specifically
music, affects us physically?

To describe a little about how music affects us physiologically I
wrote this article for you.

Axiom 1.

The body is the conduit of perceptions and sensual experiences.

Axiom 2.

The process of hearing consists of the internalization of a sound
wave and its interpretation.

The production of a sound wave from an instrument, singer’s
voice, or speaker system forces a listener to experience
something physically. Because a person’s body is in full contact
with the physical universe, the essence of all sensory perception
is the sense of touch. Light waves touch our retinas, sound waves
touch and vibrate against our ear drums, and odors reach our
noses to touch our sinuses and taste buds.

Some of the obvious effects from common interactions with the
physical universe and other life forms are the focusing of
attention, alerting of the mind, intensity of contact, contact-
signal velocity, pressure, temperature, meaning, etc.

The ear and the sense of hearing are the primary targets of the
songwriter who intends to reach an audience. Whether that
audience consists of one person alone in a room or 10,000 fans
in a huge stadium, it is only through the ear that the performer
will reach them.

The human ear converts the vibrations it receives through the air
by capturing the sound in the ear canal, channeling it through
three tiny bones, and then passing it through a fluid-filled spiral
shaped organ called the cochlea. The sound then gets
transmitted through exposed nerve endings which bundle into
the auditory nerve which finally sends the signal to the brain.
The brain then sorts out the signals into sounds and finally into
their significance.

Isn’t it amazing that, through the nervous system, the sense of
hearing gives the songwriter influence over portions of the
listener’s mind and emotions?

Because the nervous system is a closed system, it is inevitable
that one sense can activate any or all of the remaining senses.
Therefore, it’s the brilliance, genius, or strength of the composer
and their musical ideas, or some part of their music and lyrics
and their hypnotic elements that gives them the ability to attract
a listener’s attention and guide it. In my experience, it’s the
music (the rhythm or melody) that prepares the mind and places

the person in a receptive state, while the lyrics (the words)
command their state of mind.

Now as far as lyrics are concerned, it’s the emotional content and
message presented in a songwriter’s lyrics which actually
commands the mind and senses of an audience member. By
forcing images, personal memories, and aspirations into the
forefront of a person’s mind, the songwriter commands to a
greater or lesser degree the quantity of attention a person
possesses. In some cases nearly all of an individual’s mind and
attention is consumed by the artist’s composition and produces
what’s known as a trance state.

That’s why one of the goals I have as a songwriter and
instrumentalist is to activate and command as many senses as I
can only using the medium of sound. I use music as stimuli with
the sole purpose of igniting someone else’s neurology.

Related Articles:
Creativity and 70 Decibels: A Study from the Journal of
Consumer Research

Music and Trance States of Mind

The Ski llful Use of Questi ons i n Songwr i ti ng
By Marc Avante
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Have you ever noticed how some really good songs use questions
to hook you into a story and get you involved in the drama?
Questions are used by clever songwriters because of the effect
they have on you. Effective communication in songwriting
includes the skillful asking of questions. To ensure the
effectiveness of the asking of questions it is important to map out
the exact thought process you want your audience to travel on
with you during your song.


Because the person who is asking the question is in control of the
exchange, it is up to you to decide how to lead your listener’s and
toward what conclusion or emotional experience. Most people,
including an audience, wherever you find them, are all too
willing to answer a question. Why not? It’s been inculcated into
us from a very earlier age that it’s socially polite to be helpful and
when possible to answer an appropriate question. What this
means is that the asking of good questions will allow you to take
your listener for an emotional ride by the influence of your song.
Whenever you are concerned about a weak lyric it's possible to
fix it with a great question. The reason is a question can work
miracles by making the obvious your ally, stimulate responses,
capture attention, reveal what is on your audience's mind, create
instant agreement with your listener’s, make people feel
important and smart, and force them to make decisions.
Here are some other powerful effects questions have on the
listener's thinking.
1. Questions get immediate attention.
2. Questions give a listener an opportunity to speak (or respond
3. Questions maintain a high interest in your subject.
4. Questions break through resistance.
5. Questions (in a series) lead a listener toward the conclusion
you want.
6. Questions engage and validate a listener FOR thinking.
7. Questions soften a direct command.


8. Questions build confidence into your songwriting (lyrics).
9. Questions clarify YOUR thinking.
One great way to ask a question is to use a specific type called a
“leading question.” A leading question is used to elicit an exact
response—preferably the response you desire. The easiest way to
do this is to make transform a statement into a question, even if
you’re only stating the obvious. For example, “Bird’s fly, don’t
they?” “You know I love you, don’t cha” “You like me, don’t
you?” and one of the most famous examples ever “I bet you think
this song is about you, don’t you?”
The reason why this form of a question can work very well in a
song lyric is due to its obviousness. When use to state the
obvious, it creates instant agreement. The audience nods
because what you’ve asked them to do is acknowledge something
you said which was true and obvious. Of course, everyone’s felt
that way before, everyone knows that, we all have seen that sort
of thing, we’ve all lived through that kind of experience, so why
wouldn’t they? It’s effective because you bypass a person’s
analytical thinking and force them to give you an immediate and
automatic emotional response. Another reason why this
technique works so well is because it’s so insidious, the leading
question virtually forces compliance.


Remember, in asking any question it's important to cover as
broad a base as possible. Refer to the list above to find out how
much is demanded of your audience in the asking of the question
you have formulated. If the question can produce the effect of at
least half (4 to 5) of the 9 objectives on the list above, then your
question is a good one.
The leading question we talked about fulfills points 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
7, perhaps 8, and definitely 9. Any question by nature of being a
question will fulfill several of these objectives automatically. Just
make sure though that the questions you ask fulfill the purpose
and style of the song. Their role should be supportive and
definitely not a leading role.

Related Articles:
Words in Songwriting and their Power as Emotional Triggers
(Part 3)

The Human Voice

Musi c and the Kama Sutra
How Developing Musical Talent Can Increase Your Seductive Powers
By Marc Avante
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I thought it would be an interesting topic to revisit one of my
favorite works of literature, The Kama Sutra, as a way of
discussing “all things music” on this blog. This will be a short
entry with some text from Chapter III. While there are 64
practices in all required by the Kama Sutra for every male and
female, we will only take note of the musical-oriented entries on
the list. In total, this list consists of only 17 musical practices.
These practices are meant to be cultivated in addition to
knowledge of the Kama Sutra.

[Kama—is the enjoyment of appropriate objects by the five senses of hearing, feeling,
seeing, tasting and smelling, assisted by the mind together with the soul. The ingredient in
this is a peculiar contact between the organ of sense and its object, and the consciousness
of pleasure which arises from that contact is called Kama.]

“Man should study the Kama Sutra and the arts and sciences
subordinate thereto…Even young maids should study this Kama
Sutra along with its arts and sciences before marriage, and after
it they should continue to do so with the consent of their
“Her teacher should be one of the following persons—the
daughter of a nurse brought up with her and already married, or
a female friend who can be trusted in everything, or the sister of
her mother (i.e. her aunt), or an old female servant, or a female
beggar who may have formerly lived in the family, or her own
sister, who can always be trusted.”
“A public woman, endowed with a good disposition, beauty and
other winning qualities, and also versed in [these] arts, obtains
the name of Ganika, or public woman of high quality, and
receives a seat of honour in an assemblage of men. She is,
moreover, always respected by the king, and praised by learned
men, and her favour being sought for by all, she becomes an
object of universal regard.”
“The daughter of a king too, as well as a daughter of a minister,
being learned in the…arts, can make their husbands favourable
to them, even though these may have thousands of other wives
besides themselves.”
“And in the same manner, if a wife becomes separated from her
husband, and falls into distress, she can support herself easily,
even in a foreign country, by means of her knowledge of these
“Even the bare knowledge of them gives attractiveness to a
woman, though the practice of them may be only possible or
otherwise according to the circumstances of each case.”

“A man who is versed in these arts, who is loquacious and
acquainted with the arts of gallantry, gains very soon the hearts
of women, even though he is only acquainted with them for a
short time.”
After all of this fanfare about the arts to be learned and
employed in the art of seduction, these are the arts to be studied,
together with the Kama Sutra:
1. Singing
2. Playing on musical instruments
3. Dancing
4. Union of dancing, singing, and playing instrumental
5. Writing and drawing
6. Playing on musical glasses filled with water
7. Scenic representations; stage playing
8. Quickness of hand or manual skill
9. Playing a game which consists in repeating verses—as
one person finishes, another person has to commence
at once, repeating another verse, beginning with the
same letter with which the last’s speaker’s verse
ended; whoever fails to repeat is considered to have
lost and to be subject to a forfeit or stake of some kind
10. The art of mimicry or imitation
11. Reading, including chanting or intoning
12. Mental exercises, such as completing stanzas or verses
on receiving a part of them; or supplying one, two, or
three lines when the remaining lines are given
indiscriminately from different verses, so as to make
the whole an entire verse with regard to its meaning;
or arranging the words of a verse written irregularly
by separating the vowels from the consonants, or
leaving them out altogether; or putting into verse or
prose sentences represented by signs or symbols.
There are many other such exercises.
13. Composing poems
14. Knowledge of dictionaries and vocabularies
15. Knowledge of ways of changing and disguising the
appearance of persons

16. Art of obtaining possession of the property of others by
means of mantras or incantations
17. Knowledge of scanning or constructing verses

After the first few entries you may have noticed a pattern
emerging regarding the forms of musical talents one can choose
to cultivate. Of the 17 entries listed here, 4 categories can be
identified and they are:
1) Singing, or vocal art
2) Playing a musical instrument
3) Writing, or knowledge of words or literature
4) Dancing, or performance art
This shortened list of the Kama Sutra should make it less
difficult for you to decide which musical talent best suits you. To
quickly increase your seductive powers choose the one you feel
you can most easily develop. So get out there and find an
instructor in the art or practice you have chosen and START!
And may you have the best of luck in your next attempt to
acquire the object of your affection.
Related Articles:
Master Salesman: Grant Cardone on Love and Money

Artists in the Limelight: How to Detect Attention Addicts and
Psychic Vampires
Source: The Kama Sutra Of Vatsyayana (translated by Sir Richard Burton & F. F.

Hooks and Earwor ms
By Marc Avante
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Whenever I get comments from friends and fans about my
music, it’s funny, because almost always they complement the
pieces I would have thought to be less praiseworthy than others.
It’s actually quite strange that the songs I write that I think
should be complemented or praised more often are almost never
mentioned. So I thought about it.

What is the reason why this happens? What is it about certain
pieces that I or others have written which gets people talking? Is
it possible to find a common characteristic or “magic” quality
that creates a special connection with listeners? In this article, I
am going to share some of my thoughts and conclusions on this
subject and try to answer some of the questions I listed earlier.

The first thing I realized was that one way to go about writing
unforgettable songs is through the brilliant invention of
memorable Hooks.

A Hook is a musical idea, which can be a short riff, musical
passage, or lyrical phrase that makes the song appealing and
captures the ear of the listener. Often the chorus contains the
hook and generally the hook is melodic, rhythmic, or verbal.
Usually it also incorporates THE MOTIF, a unique or clever
melodic, rhythmic, or lyrical device, specific to the piece.


In contrast, an Earworm has a more psychological connotation.
It is commonly defined as musical or lyrical material that repeats
itself compulsi vely within one’s mind. Studies have determined
that different people have varying susceptibilities to earworms
but that almost everyone has been affected by them at one time
or another. For our purposes, the terms hook and earwor m can
be used interchangeably. Think about it a Hook can become an
Earworm and an Earworm is likely based on a Hook.

Now that we’ve cleared that out of the way, let’s dig a little
deeper. So is there a “magic” quality or reason why this
happens? And the answer is yes!

Although hooks and earworms are “catchy,” studying them alone
does not necessarily tell the whole story about what makes them
“catchy.” What does tell the rest of the story is studying the
nature of altered states of consciousness – such as trances.
We’ve already discussed how in popular music such as rock,
dance, and pop, there are two terms that identify a “catchy” song
and they were Hook and Earworm. But what brings the Hook
and Earworm into existence is a “trance generating loop.” A
trance generating loop is created when a certain quanti ty of
repetition is reached sufficient to produce an altered state of
consciousness in an individual.


Trance researcher David Wier says, “Music consists of many
trance generation loops consisting of the multiple rhythms and
melodies [and words]. As one listens to one specific rhythm or
melody, when a certain value…is reached, the melody is 'learned'
and a dissociated trance…is produced.” He goes on to say that
the trance becomes stable when additional loops are introduced
in order to reinforce the original loop. Further trance research
has shown that “the strength of [a] trance or the duration of the
effect of the trance depends mostly on the number of repetitions
and NOT on the content of the loop." He concludes with, “It is a
strong [trance force] which gives the sense of wei r dness or
other-worldly quality to deep trance.”

So in a very real sense, we could say that an intelligent
songwriter is capable of inventing or discovering their own
signature pattern for creating songs you can’t get out of your
head. Following these discoveries he can then magnify the
results by strategic promotion and marketing. Think about the
power just one song can have in society where that song is
seemingly omnipresent. It’s played on Internet, satellite, and
commercial radio, it’s in millions of people’s iPod’s, it’s on T.V.,
on T.V. commercials, on movie soundtracks, there are bands
doing cover videos of the song on, it’s getting
played at clubs, getting remixed by DJ’s, getting played at school
dances, getting played at house parties, and getting played in the
car next to you.

However, as you may have noticed not all songs contain Hooks
that are trance worthy so they never become Earworms. For one
reason or another they just never become viral and don’t affect
us too deeply. So don’t worry, anything you hear or like listening
to isn’t necessarily going to infect your mind but chances are it
will if you listen to it all day and night.


This also explains why some of the most popular songs tend to be
the most annoying as Earworms because they’re simple – easy to
remember, easy to transmit to others. And what if we hear these
songs several times a day over the course of a week. It’s no
wonder why then we’ll continue to hear them in our heads when
we least want to or expect it. So would you like to know how to
detect if you’re under the influence of an Earworm or not? Well,
the only way in which you can identify whether or not you are
relates to whether or not your attention is fixed. When your
attention is so limited that it feels like “tunnel vision,” then you
are in a trance. Beware of this effect.

If you’re mathematically minded here’s a simple formula for you
to remember.


A Formula for “Catchiness”

S(H) x P + M = E

A Song multiplied by its Hook times the combined effect of
Promotion and Marketing equals its effect as an Earworm.



Here is a link to a video about Earworms featuring a brief
interview with noted British neurologist and psychologist Oliver
Sacks. Sacks is the author of numerous bestselling books,
including several collections of case studies of people with
neurological disorders. His 1973 book Awakenings was adapted
into an Academy Award-nominated film of the same name in
1990 starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. He, and his
book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain,” were the
subjects of "Musical Minds", an episode of the PBS series Nova.
To see the video right now, click here.

Related Articles:
Music and Trance States of Mind


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