Ambiguity is what makes life worth living. If we all shared the same collective experience there would be no reason to even talk to each other, no reason to learn from each other, no real reason to do anything at all. Sure, you can live the eat/sleep lifestyle – avoid negative feelings and embrace the positive, but what kind of life is that? Hedonists are selfish and worse; boring. I’m sure it’s a reasonably decent life living in your head, shutting out any experience that runs counter your own infallible internal narrative. But, your life is irrelevant if not shared with others and the lives of other can’t be appreciated without comparison to your own experience. That’s what gives it verisimilitude. If you can’t appreciate that everyone experiences the world in different ways, then you probably can’t appreciate much of anything.
What does this have to do with music? Well, learning how to utilize ambiguity will make you a better song writer and luckily for you someone already cracked the code on ambiguity in poetry 86 years ago!
William Empson explored the different form of ambiguity in language in his seminal work “7 Types of Ambiguity” in 1930 and because we live a beautiful, modern world where information is always at our fingertips you can browse the cliff notes on Wikipedia while you’re taking your morning dump, (you’ve been hitting the memes too hard anyway).
For an in depth analysis of the 7 types of ambiguity by a well respected author you can go straight to the source and read the book, but I would recommend to first read the list with no accompaniment and derive your own meaning and examples from each type:
- The first type of ambiguity is the metaphor, that is, when two things are said to be alike which have different properties.
- Two or more meanings are resolved into one.
- Two ideas that are connected through context can be given in one word simultaneously.
- Two or more meanings that do not agree but combine to make clear a complicated state of mind in the author.
- When the author discovers his idea in the act of writing.
- When a statement says nothing and the readers are forced to invent a statement of their own, most likely in conflict with that of the author.
- Two words that within context are opposites that expose a fundamental division in the author’s mind.
I’m sure I’ll dive deeper into each type as time goes on, but this is a blog and you’re not going to read more than 500 words. (Plus, I’ve got to go on a bike ride with my buddy Rob).
Uh, goodbye, (I guess).