In my view, we do not own the elements of music any more than we own the elements of math. We are mere users, manipulators and organizers of musical truth, capable of expressing some truth (with limits) in rhythm, melody, and harmony. We manipulate the structural roots. We use music to provide a brief view of our soul. However, over the years, I have accepted the idea that we cannot really make original music; we merely re-purpose, re-organize and restructure what already exists. Please, do not overlook the fact there are only eight notes in a scale. Most western melodies and chord arrangements (patterns) live with this limitation. There are a finite number of permutations and combinations for this system built on eight discrete values. If most songs consist of 3-5 chords with a melody that lasts 30-50 seconds, fresh, truly original ideas are rare these days.
To be fair to songwriter and arrangers, I also accept that music is three-dimensional for time, pitch, and timbre play a role. When discussing the creative palate we must also include timing, rhythm, and the beat. Movement (timing) gives life to the music. Movement facilities the expression of a sequential, related, series of events, to be joined into a uniform ‘message for the listener’. It is the phrasing and timing that truly makes one song different from another song. The timbre of each note adds even more variance. Play a melody on guitar, and then play the melody on the trumpet. The timbre differences between the vibration of air (trumpet) and the vibration of a string (guitar) are profound. All of these elements help to define the uniqueness of a song.
Creation comes from the God of this universe; at best, we imitate and emulate his creation in the art we create. If we look closely at the music creation process, some musicians emulate man’s creation (by replicating music written by others). They keep their distance, happy to replicate Man’s ideas. Others venture out and attempt to explore the tonal and melodic relationships created by God. These people are songwriters.
As for me, I prefer the notion articulated by Lyle Lovett, “I don’t ever try to anticipate my audience, I just write the songs I want to write and hope people like ’em”.