When Aristotle broke rhetoric into three parts — credibility, logic, and passion — maybe music was his muse.
The mathematical, rhythmic structure of music, Western music, at least, is built on logic: Clefs command. Notes beat. Rests pause. Chords progress.
Passion rips in equal measures through Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Melissa Etheridge’s “Like the Way I Do,” despite a chasm of centuries, and despite different instruments, inspirations, form and feeling.
Credibility is harder to pin down, but there must be dependability, like staying on key (except if you’re John Cage, or Lucille Ball). There must be believability, whether it is Neil Diamond crooning ballads like “Forever in Blue Jeans,” Steve Martin strumming a banjo, or Johnny Cash singing about Folsom Prison.
So if music fits the rhetorical test, can songwriting, with its logical rhymes, passionate melodies and lyrics and meaningful messages be far behind?
The expressive command of language — the language of words, eighth notes, drum beats or vibrating strings — awakens all that is eloquent in us.