Songwriting Analysis: Sarah McLachlan “Building a Mystery”

Sarah McLachlan: Surfacing

No pyrotechnics, no drama.  Sarah McLachlan effectively gets under your skin with subtlety and poise with aptly titled “Building a Mystery.”  How does she do that?

  • sticking to a pentatonic scale, which has an open sound that’s neither happy nor sad
  • dwelling often on a note that doesn’t belong to most of the underlying chords, to emphasize the ambiguity
  • restraining herself to a narrow range and a handful of notes to draw attention to the words, subtle vocal gestures and let the performance and production create an atmosphere