Before I began writing my Songs of the Madman album, I’d always known how much I was pulled towards creating music as a concept. To begin with an abstract idea, then to shape it into something solid and unique, which has form and substance, fits my idea and love of storytelling through music.
Some of the greatest music we know has come from a concept formed into something concrete. And not just in popular music like Dark side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, or Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber. But also in classical music, such as Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky, then later transcribed electronically by Emerson Lake & Palmer, or The Planets by Gustav Holst.
The key to all these and other concept creations is a strong love of storytelling. Having a unique story to tell also helps, but building on an existing idea or story can also work. Think of the incredible musical creation of the H. G. Wells science fiction novel War of the Worlds, by musician and advertising jingle writer Jeff Wayne.
I came up with the idea for Songs of the Madman from a story I knew as a child. The story of the man with the lamp, out searching for one honest man. Diogenes of Sinope was that man. A Greek philosopher who was one of the founders of cynic philosophy. Plato once described Diogenes as “a Socrates gone mad”. That’s how I came about the name of my album.
I found this album reasonably simple to write, because musically, I think in terms of storytelling and creating songs with an overall concept in mind. I imagine other people like J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books also thinks this way. The benefits of inventing art like this are very rewarding, especially when you look at the top selling albums and books.
I’d encourage more people to think this way when building their arts ideas, because it can produce some extraordinary results. One of my upcoming albums is about the life of that amazing poet, Emily Dickinson, another concept album.