Many a music person is rendered speechless when asked to explain how they write music. It is as much a mystery to them as it is to their listeners. Writing music has an aura of mystique about it that borders on magic. It is a domain in which inspiration is a constant and recurring theme.

So what is this inspiration thingy and how do you get it?

Throughout much of history, inspiration was thought to come from outside. Inspiration is not a human ability, it is a gift from the gods. It arises from divine intervention by the Muse, which is how music got its name.

The Muse is an interesting person. Or persons, to be precise, since there are nine of them. They were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne in Greek mythology. These muses are the goddesses of inspiration; not just music, and not just the arts generally, but of all knowledge. They are the founts of wisdom.

One of the Muses is of particular interest to us. She is Euterpe, the muse of music. Her speciality is lyric poetry and she is usually depicted playing a flute.

You invoke Euterpe with a suitable gift. You need not offer your favourite son or daughter in exchange for a cracking riff, though some of you may feel the urge, just light a candle, think of all things euterpean, and that will be good enough.

Unfortunately, modern science tends to shun inspiration because of its historically mystical overtones. Psychology in particular should offer some insights into the subject but does not. This is a real shame as everyone agrees that inspiration is important but no-one seems to know what it is, where it comes from, how to invoke it or how to use it. What little information there is in the scientific literature can be summed up thus:

  1. Inspiration is evoked spontaneously and without intention by something internal or external.
  2. Inspiration is a transcendental experience involving a moment of clarity and the awareness of new possibilities.
  3. Inspiration motivates you to do something.

The good news is that, when the muse does strike, which she most certainly will, there is a buzz unlike anything else, and you are master of the universe.