Watch Your Tongue!

If the tongue had not been framed for articulation, man would still be a beast in the forest
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
-Leonardo da Vinci


Above are two obviously contrasting perspectives. They make me wonder if Ralph and Leo would have gotten along in polite conversation? On the surface, Emerson offers a blatant commentary on language and how it defines us, while Da Vinci’s words are less specific, more philosophical, and reaffirm the old adage, less is more. However, today, in this article, these two ideals have meaning that resonates rather harmoniously, yet clash in a way that I can best describe through music. No surprise there. I see their relationship as the minor second of language, separated by a fine line of frequency. The trick is deciding which pitch, if either, is correct.


Is it really possible to decide? Sure, some pitches are sharp, some are flat. Those of us with a trained ear can tell the difference. However, some cultures embrace and prefer notes, scales, and harmonies that are out of tune. The same certainly applies to ones lexicon.
Or, do we even need to? Is there a balance, a microtone so to speak, in which these two ideals can coincide? Recently, I have been encouraged to reevaluate the “lofty” choice of words in my writing. I often use rather verbose language that often comes across as arrogant or excessive, regardless of my humble intensions. Perhaps I should aim to “say what I mean” more often, and furthermore aim to do so more plainly. Yet, at the same time we should all aim to “mean what we say” as well. I  can honestly say that I choose my words carefully. I mean what I say. Do you? A common writing technique is to write the way you speak. This practice comes naturally to me because I have a habit of always reading what I have written out loud. I recommend trying it sometime. See if it works for you in the editing process.


It is understood that the world (music too) is never as black and white as the music on the page. Nothing is or can be that definable. That is just not how life twist and turns. Therefore, please, if you may, embrase your language, own it, and practice the craft of speaking as you would music. There was another wise yet cynical man named George Carlin who once said “People think in language.” In that sense, ask yourself next time you sit down to write, compose, perform, paint, etc., “what is my language?”


Along this stream of thought, I humbly ask that any and all reading this please offer your criticisms of my language. If I have said something that makes no sense whatsoever, please say so. The same goes for the contrary. I embrace as Socrates did the Transformative philosophy that if you can prove me wrong, please do so. At least then I will have learned something.


  • Dr. Matthew Schildt and Prof. James Doyle for constantly keeping me in check.
  • And, all my friends and family who bear with me through all my linguistic journeys. It means a great deal.
  • Image – Ebon Heath

Thanks for reading the Musik Modus Mémoires!

1 Comment

  1. I love the idea of embracing “your language.” It seems today that there is so much pressure to create what society deems as important and significant. It is true though that we appreciate the notes that are out of tune and the ways of thinking that seem odd. If everyone listened to society’s language instead of their own, we wouldn’t have a lot of the great stuff out there. Thanks for writing, I really enjoyed all the connections you made between music, language, art, and being true to yourself.

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