Archetypes - what are they and how do they show up in songs?
What are archetypes?
The academic answer is: “Forms or images of a collective nature which occur practically all over the earth as constituents of myths and, at the same time, as products of conscious origin.” Carl Jung
The less academic answer is: something that can really help you get clear on your identity as a songwriter, refine the messages in your songs and even break through writers block.
Archetypes are all around us. They could be described as blueprints, patterns of instinctive behaviour, psychological predispositions, energetic imprints. You might call them the heritage of humanity; hidden treasures waiting to be explored. They are patterns that we all have access to in our psyche. They are inner resources, helpers that we can draw upon. We are mostly unconscious of the fact that we have archetypes in our lives, but once we gain conscious awareness of them then we gain more freedom and flexibility to tap into other archetypal energies and make choices about the stories that we are living and telling.
You might recognise them as the man who stands up for what he believes to be right, the loving mother who might even sacrifice herself for her child, the obsessive passion of unrequired love, teh revolutionary who is prepared to challenge - even tear down - society, the wise person who speaks honest truths to others. These characters can be rich and complex, and have appeared in books, films, songs - all forms of creative art. They enable people to make deep connections with ideas and stories.
Usually they have been created unconsciously. But archetypes have been used consciously in screenplay writing, and are starting to be used in branding and advertising. And now a handful of people are leading this approach in songwriting.
What do they have to do with songwriting?
As a songwriter, have you ever struggled with a song that felt cheesy? That just didn't express what you wanted it to? That somehow lacked authenticity?
Or maybe you're tired of writing the same old songs, with the same subject matter and you're yearning for a change?
Or are you writing for someone else and want to really get under the skin of a very different personality?
Angela uses archetypal approaches in many of her own songs and has taught others to do so too:
“One of the best writing exercises I have ever taken part in.”
“I will definitely be using archetypes to write new songs.”
“Once I made that connection between the archetype and how real people express it, the song almost wrote itself.”
“Instead of writing as myself I imagined being a sage character, majestic and respectable… which then freed me to be as outlandish as I chose.”
“Just thinking about that character cuts to the heart of my love for writing ‘tears and all’.”
“I felt free and almost a bit like in trance. So amazing.”
“In this case, the idea came (almost) fully formed, in its most perfect form.”
“I was very surprised at myself in how deep I went with the imagery and story.”
“I feel it made expressing my feeling in words easier.”
“I found it very productive and it birthed several ideas which were not used for this project but will (hopefully) be used for future songs.”
“It was a long way to that amazing moment by the piano, but just because it came in that WOW-way, I am curious what song would come out if I focused on another archetype.”