Writing With Music

The type of music I listen to while writing depends mostly on what kind of writing it is and sometimes merely the mood I’m in. My writing area is in a loft, so when there are others around, the sound of the TV drifts upwards. Think History channel, which is fine but distracting or the Military channel, which is not so fine and also distracting. I can’t believe there is a military channel but I guess these days there is a channel for everything. Political shows are always extremely distracting because there is never just one person speaking, at any given time there are usually at least two, one Republican and one Democrat. And then there’s sports, enough said there.

If it’s none of the above there are always reruns of Predator or War of The Worlds, or whatever the name of that one is, the one with Tom Cruise and the annoying screaming girl child.

An iPod is as necessary for me anymore as food, I think. When I thought my iPod was broken, while my first reaction was — Great! Maybe I can get a bigger one! — I panicked at the thought of not having it right then, at that time. But all it needed was a charge and was so run down it wouldn’t turn on.

Sometimes I listen to rock music. I like the Eagles, Tom Petty, The Moody Blues, but then random songs that I have always liked. Stuff like Wicked Game, by Chris Isaak, Like a Rolling Stone, by Dylan, and The House of the Rising Sun, by Eric Burdon and the Animals.

There are references to music in my two novels: I Can’t Make You Love Me, by Bonnie Raitt, and Just the Way You Are, by Billy Joel, to name two. I like the lyrics of these songs, they really say something and can make for some powerful dialogue.

But when I want to write an emotional scene, about maybe sex or breakups or death, I listen to classical music and my favorite classical album of all time is Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis; Barber: Adagio for Strings; Grainger: Irish Tune from County. I highly recommend this CD. If you are interested, here it is on Amazon.

Best listened to on a great sound system cranked up, but you will get the feel just through the computer speakers.

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (Vaughan Williams) is simply one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever heard. The more I hear it the more I want to listen. I am so impressed by people who can write music. How do they do that exactly? How do they put the melody and the different instruments together, with the pauses and the crescendos and the harmony in such a way? This piece is, just, inspiring, I guess I’d have to say. It’s hard to express music, and the way it makes one feel.

Listen here to Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis:

Another track on this same CD is Barber: Adagio for Strings, Op. 11. I’m not sure of the meaning of “Adagio” nor what “Op.” stands for, but if you feel emotional, or sad, listen to this. It is typically played when there is cause for mourning. This YouTube video is a live version of it performed on September 15, 2001, in memory of the 9/11 victims. How fitting that I found it today, exactly ten years later. I am sincerely sorry if there is a commercial in the beginning. It’s too bad everything has to be bastardized with advertising. This is way too moving and emotional to be preceded by a car ad (or whatever other atrocious clip they fling at you) but that’s the way it is, I guess. This is breathtakingly beautiful, and I usually don’t talk that way.

Listen to it here:

It’s hard to describe music. I tried to do that in my novel Second Stories. Here is the description (Café del Mar – Training):

 It was simple piano music, mixed with special acoustical effects, a serious, haunting, melancholy melody, the kind of music he’d listen to over and over, the notes ingrained on his brain, eerie and unforgettable. As he listened, there was a crescendo, and the piano played in a higher key, and other instruments mixed in, before returning to the same somber notes he’d first heard. He stood still and listened.

Here is the actual song:

Too bad there isn’t some way to incorporate music into books. I’ll bet that’s coming soon, but isn’t here yet. I wanted to describe this music, and I’m not sure if I succeeded or not. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t lend itself to laptop speakers too well. It might sound a little tinny, but is a very nice piece.