Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Music to Tame the Savage Writer

Some writing blather. . .

I was at a writer's retreat recently where somebody, and I wish I could remember who, gave me an idea for finding theme music for each main character, just as there is for movies and tv shows. Kind of a cool idea, doncha think?

I'm not doing that, exactly, but lately I am using music to write by.

The novel I'm working on is set in two time periods. I wish I could include CD's with the book, so people could listen to the song track from "Out of Africa" for the part set in 1986, and then listen to the Boz Scaggs album, "Some Change," for the chapters set in 2008. "Out of Africa" evokes a feeling of piercing poignancy that I need for the chapters about pain and loss; "Some Change" has a (variously) sexy, bluesy/up-tempo/down and dirty/ country/western feel that puts me in the right mood for the chapters set in a small town and a ranch in Kansas in 2008.

Yesterday, I listened to Bob Seger to heighten a certain mood.. For melancholy or lyrical moods, I turn to Nora Jones or Enya. Oddly, I've never found any classical music that works for me. And even stranger, if it's the right music, lyrics don't bother me.

A fabulous additional benefit of this technique is that the minute the music comes on, I start writing. Honestly, it works as well as a hypnosis tape I used successfully to get over a block and finish a book years ago. (When I'm not writing, I don't let myself listen to the music I'm using for the book. I want my brain to associate it with writing and only writing. )

So. . .this is a serious question: Can you think of any music you'd recommend to evoke specific writing moods? Got any good ones for "argument," or "spooky"? How about for "thunderstorm"?

25 comments:

Nancy P said...

I know I've talked about this subject before, but it has shifted on me this time, so I'm interested in it all over again.

G'morning (in a few hours)!

FARfetched said...

I suppose it's different for everyone, and might even be different from time to time. It's whatever helps you to concentrate. ELP's "Works Vol. 1" album(s) is an old standby that has "worked" well for me in the past.

The nice thing about the Internet is that there's so many streaming "stations" with just about every genre you can imagine — no problem finding something suitable! These days, I like chill or ambient to provide some background noise & get my alpha waves perking; soma.fm provides Groove Salad and Space Station Soma for that.

During my working day, I either play a scramble of everything on my iPod (which can sometimes be distracting, especially when Skillet or Family Force 5 comes on) or listen to high-energy dance (BeirutNights.com or Fusion Radio Chicago). If you have iTunes, the Radio link on the left gives you hundreds of choices sorted by genre.

And that's my contribution…

Nancy P said...

I either play a scramble of everything on my iPod (which can sometimes be distracting,

That's one thing I can't do--listen to a whole buncha different artists in a row. It pretty much has to be either one song over and over or one album by one person.

What's ELP? Oh, and good morning, far. How's the visitor today?

Nancy P said...

Has anybody seen "Sex and the City," the movie? I'm supposed to go to a matinee today. Did you like it?

katiebird said...

Good Morning, Nancy & FAR!

This sounds like another good project for (euphemistically speaking) the week after next.

A couple of bloggy people I know liked the movie a lot. But, I don't know anything about their personal tastes, so I don't know how meaningful that is.

(coffee? where's the coffee?)

Nancy P said...

Coffee's perking, kb. I already drank the entire first pot of it.

What I've read about the movie is that a.) a whole lot of male reviewers absolutely loathe it and totally savaged it in their reviews; and b.) a whole lot of women absolutely flove it--not for the sex and shoes--or not *only* for that--but for its depiction of female friendship. I've read of women sobbing through the whole movie! We are a funny gender. I love us. And of course I'm going with three other women--representing three generations. Gosh, kb, if you were already retired. . .

Nancy P said...

God, I'm verbose this morning. I think I'd better go pour some of this surfeit of words onto my book pages.

Ta, for now.

katiebird said...

I used to think I had to be careful about using up all my words. But, now I think that the more I use, the more I've got.

So keep talk!

Nancy P said...

lol, kb. I'm glad I saw that comment before I started work. "Plenty of words where those came from. . ."

When I started writing mystery fiction, I--half seriously, half not-- thought that there wasn't any hope of ever coming up with original figures of speech, because Raymond Chandler had already thought of all of them!

Beth said...

Morning! Off to get a mammogram - how's THAT for starting a day off right...

I've heard from two girlfriends that Sex and the City is really great, so...

And music? If I'm working on tough scenes, no music at all. Otherwise, Jimmy Buffett, reminding me that there's a world of sun and fun out there somewhere - that keeps me grounded and in the right frame of mind to not take myself too seriously. I'll have to think about evoking certain moods with certain music...hmmm...

I'll try and remember who said that re themes, N - I recall the conversation, but not where it came from....

Later gators!

FARfetched said...

Hey Nancy, KB, and Beth!

ELP = Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. "Works" is a set of piano & orchestral pieces, some with lyrics, others instrumental.

The visitor is doing OK. He's (by his own admission) somewhat introverted, although he's starting to come out a bit as he gets to know us. By the time he leaves, we probably won't be able to shut him up. :-D

Movies… we went to see Narnia: Prince Caspian last night. I got a good laugh out of Mrs. Fetched when we got home; there was a battle scene where catapulted rocks are flying at the camera; I had rode to the theater from work & it was a dark and buggy night on the ride home… and the bugs kept reminding me of the missiles. A small moth kamikaze'd itself on my face shield; if I'd not had it down, I would have been a Happy Biker.

Off for coffee. I tried sub'ing tea for my third cup & it just isn't cutting the mustard. Good luck with that, um, procedure there, Beth! Mrs. Fetched's description suggests it's a rather sucky experience.

Beth said...

The folks here are pretty good, far, so it's not too bad. Brief moments of ^%#$#, then it's over for another year. Coffee with the girls this am as a reward. Just one cup, tho! So how are DD and the visitor doing?

Hope Mom's tests went well yesterday, Nancy - are you on the WRW listserv? Folks are singing your praises, fyi.

Back to work - smooches to all!

Kelly McCullough said...

Lovely, lovely Chai for me this morning and a four mile bike ride too and from the coffee shop. Now sitting on the front porch finishing the waking up process with a ginormous fat cat in my lap. Not much for music+writing. If there are lyrics at all it kills my productivity, and if there aren't I basically don't notice it. At that point it's purely a block action for the neighborhood noises.

TTFN,
Kelly

Family Man said...

Hiya Nancy and everyone.

I've found when I write it's a certain station I listen to. I usually listen to traditional Irish out of Dublin. It's called Live Ireland. When I try to remember things from the past and write about those, I can't unless I'm listening to that.

I haven't listened to that in awhile, so that might be the reason I haven't written. :)

Hope everyone is having a good day.

FARfetched said...

DD & the friend: As far as I know, they're doing OK. They like to sit in the same room at their computers, which is a replay of her former boyfriend. It's kind of maddening; you keep thinking they're going to sneak off & smooch or something. Maybe they do when I'm at work. Tomorrow is a work at home day, so that ought to be interesting.

Her local guy friend was with us last night at the movie… I think the two of them were sizing each other up in some ways, like guys do when they're interested in the same girlie. They're opposite in several ways; the local kid is huge (bigger than DD, which is saying something) and extroverted; the visitor is short, skinny, and introverted. I don't want to write much about it until I get a better read, because DD will give me all sorts of holy hell if I get it w0rNg.

Paul Lamb said...

If you ever want to depict the utter sense of "grief" then you should listen to the 2nd movement of Beethoven's 7th symphony.

As for thunderstorms, the middle part of the William Tell Overture pretty much does it for me. (Not the famous horn motif, but a little earlier.)

maryb said...

I once linked in my mind a Dorothy Dunnett novel with the third movement of Rachmaninoff's Piano concerto no. 2. Every time I listened to it I thought of the novel and every time I was reading the novel I found the music running through my head.

The weird thing was that it was not the novel she wrote that was set in Russia - it was the follow up novel that was set in France. And it was 16th century - which was entirely the wrong period.

But that music seemed so appropriate to a character struggling between trying to regiment his life with no emotion while below the surface all that emotion was struggling (and sometimes succeeding) to get out and as a reader (and a listener) I kept wanting to get to the end where it all 'came together' in one big cathartic conclusion.

boran2 said...

Hi all. I'd go through my music a and see what it might induce but I just lost my ipod. I suppose that I'll be shopping for a new one soon. I understand that Apple has a new 2gb shuffle.

katiebird said...

7 work days left! Today one of the Librarians said, "we'll have to have you back at work for a couple days in August...."

And I just stared.

I'll have to make sure I'm out of town in August.

(waving happily)

Nancy P said...

Far, Bug in Teeth, not good. Funny, but not good. :)

Beth, I'm not on the list-serve, but I'm tickled to hear they're saying nice things. Thanks for telling me.

Hey, Paul! Nice to see you. And thanks for the suggestion. I've never been a fan of the WTO (weird to say, probably), but I think I'll try the Beethoven. So far, Hovaness has been the only classical guy who has "gone with" my writing.

MaryB, interesting story about Rachmaninoff and Dunnett. I guess some novels DO come with their own cd's. :)

Boran2, lost your ipod, oh noes!!!

Kelly, did I say hi? Hi!

Kb, you'd better not look too happy around there. :)

Beth said...

NP, Cindy has gone thru her mss and written one sentence describing each scene. Peg says your template has gotten her rewriting past the meandering stage, and is eternally grateful. Sammi says you have made revision fun, and your template makes it more like puzzle solving than drudge work. And Lisa says you were an inspiration as our resident fairy godmother and imagines you saying "put your butt in that chair and get busy," in a kind, genteel way. :-)

They're also discussing MILFs and cougars, who apparently are women over 40 trolling for younger men...what an education I'm getting!

Sorry about your ipod, boran! :-( And KB, this is where you get to practice that two-letter "N" word...

Have a great evening, everyone!

katiebird said...

Celebrity circus?

FARfetched said...

MILFs and cougars? Suddenly I'm interested… :-P

Y'know, Nancy, you'd mentioned good "thunderstorm" music. Darude's "Sandstorm" might be more appropriate for a tornado, but it would set the mood. But if you're not dancing to THAT number, you're probably dead!

katiebird said...

They say that David Cook's whole fan base was Cougars....

Does anyone know anything about that?

Kathy McIntosh said...

A couple of years ago, Michael Connelly did include a CD of some jazz to the first who ordered a book. The marketing idea worked: I pre-ordered, something I rarely do. And I love the CD.
And really like the concept of having certain music playing when you write, and only when you write.