Thursday, February 11, 2010

In Search Of The Lost Chord

I hadn't thought of the song in years until recent events brought it to mind. Over 150 years ago, Adelaide Anne Proctor wrote a poem, The Lost Chord. It was later set to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame). The gist of the poem was that, "seated one day at the organ," the writer randomly struck a chord that reverberated "like the sound of a great amen." Despite a lifelong search, they could never reproduce the chord.

Have you ever had an idea so fantastic, so extraordinary, that you wanted to hurry and write it down before you lost it? And then, when you were finally able to commit it to paper (or your computer, or your Blackberry--work with me here, folks), you couldn't recall it? It's happened to me a couple of times within the past few weeks, and on both occasions I was unable to recall the idea. But I take heart in the knowledge that often these "lost chords" don't turn out to be so hot, anyway.

There's a Seinfeld episode in which Jerry awakens in the middle of the night with the idea for such a classic comedy bit that he's sure it will bring him fame, fortune, and a spot on the Tonight Show. He writes it down and falls back to sleep, but the next morning, neither he nor anyone he asks can read his scribbling. He finally discovers that he's recalled a line from a sci-fi program he was watching at bedtime. His "lost chord" turns out to be "Flaming Globes of Sigmond." Not so funny, after all.

On the other hand, several times I have come up with ideas in my sleep that I did recall when I awoke, and I was able to apply these to my writing with excellent results. Stephen King refers to this as "the boys in the basement"--his internal muses. James Scott Bell talks about the process frequently. And I have to agree that, once we set our subconscious free, sometimes it comes up with some excellent solutions that we couldn't have developed when trying to do so voluntarily.

So if you're still looking for your "lost chord," don't worry if it eludes you. Just relax and let the boys in the basement work. And if they don't come up with anything, don't sweat it. It was probably just "Flaming Globes of Sigmond" anyway.

4 comments:

Carol J. Garvin said...

Those mind-floating moments just before sleep descends have been some of my most productive! I have a notepad and battery-lit pen on my bedside table because if I don't write them down immediately I seldom remember the ideas or oh-so-perfect wording in the morning.

D'Ann Mateer said...

Just wanted you to know I gave you an award on my blog!

Lori Benton said...

I frequently get breakthroughs about plot and character in the moments before I drift off to sleep, usually when I'm past the point of turning on the light and quickly jotting them down. Often they'll pop back into my thoughts the next day, but I'm sure I've lost a few too.

bondChristian said...

When I read the subject line, I thought this was going to be about the secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord. :>)

This was a refreshing shirt from what I'd expected. I'd not heard about this lost chord before.

It happens to me all the time. Just yesterday even, I thought of an idea for a simple blog post, but now I can't remember what it was. Like you said, it probably wasn't that important if I was able to forget it.

It's the ones that keep us up at night that matter.

-Marshall Jones Jr.