Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Music and Writing

It's hell week for my students. By this, I mean that my sophomore English students are writing their very first research paper and entering into a whole new world of sleeplessness and stress....

But this got me thinking about the music that I used to listen to when I was their age and having to write research papers for school. I clearly remember that Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine always factored somewhere into my late night, coffee-fueled, high school and undergraduate forays into academic writing.

Then I started thinking about creative writing, and novel writing in particular. Because when it comes to totally immersing myself into another world, into another character's head- their desires and choices and mistakes and lives- I can't listen to anything with words. It's too distracting. I need something both instrumental and lyrical, something that lulls me along the writing journey, but doesn't remind me that I am still sitting at a keyboard, trying to tame ideas into words. For some reason, soundtracks seem to always enter into the picture. I cannot count the times that Phillip Glass' cyclical composition for The Hours has been my ferryman across the river to the next land.....


So, my fellow writers, here is the question I pose for you: what is your music of choice for writing? What helps you dream and helps you create?

Please leave a comment and share.....


14 comments:

  1. I usually make a soundtrack for whatever I am working on that's specific to the story itself. The one for my novel Sewerville is mostly alt-country stuff (Steve Earle, Matt King, etc.)and '70s rock like AC/DC. Right now though, I've been playing the Dredd soundtrack a lot, regardless of what I'm writing.

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  2. I love the idea of creating a soundtrack specifically for a story. I think that I do this inadvertantly, but I really like the idea of having a playlist meant just for a particular novel. And I want to check out "Sewerville"- it sounds right up my alley!

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  3. I'm similar to sewerville. Depends what I'm writing as well. When I'm writing fiction, it's often dark, so I have a Moody and Mellow playlist. When I'm writing bible study type stuff, clearly, that playlist doesn't work. :) I can sometimes listen to a general mix of my faves, but sometimes can't have words either. I love the soundtrack to the movie "Shine," though there are a few tracks that get really intense. Once we used it in my art class in college and we all got stressed and prof had to change it and we were all like, aaaaah. It's funny how you don't notice how you can tense up with music. I write well in the soundtrack of a coffee shop--crowded, lots of conversations and noises, all blending together. They should sell a CD of that.

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    1. It's so interesting to hear what people like to listen to while writing! I love your idea of a soundtrack of just "coffee shop noises." I bet a lot of people would actually really be inspired by that. It would drive me crazy, though. I'm one of those people who is so easily distracted by other people's conversations; I'd never be able to focus! :)

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  4. I need complete silence to write. Maybe it has something to do with comic timing. I get my inspiration walking, and I also love movie soundtracks -- particularly the soundtrack to The Prince of Tides -- very inspiring! I also love George Winston's Autumn and December soundtracks. And, okay, sappy as it is, the soundtrack to Somewhere in Time. If inspirational music has words, they have to be in Italian, so I can't understand anything being said ... like I love Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma!

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    1. Hey- I actually have tracks from the the Somewhere in Time soundtrack on my overall "writing" playlist! I love the piano music....

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  5. Great post, Steph. Like Parri, I need silence to write, but I love to listen to music before writing for inspiration. Usually dark indie stuff with heavy guitars or strings - The Horrors or Maximo Park or The Cocteau Twins. Or maybe something classical and haunting. Radio 6 (UK) always plays good stuff.

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  6. I make soundtracks too. Generally speaking, I only listen to up tempo music if the scene requires it but otherwise my staples are: The Maccabees, Kings of Leon, Editors, The Smiths, The Verve, Sade, Wild Belle, Bombay Bicycle Club...some variation depending on the scene though.

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  7. I generally prefer quiet when writing. Otherwise I get too distracted. I have over 6k songs in my iTunes library, so there are many different tunes to choose from... plus I have a particular liking for Broadway showtunes... really ;)

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  8. Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

    this is THE album to rotate endlessly while writing/creating/studying

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  9. I agree- if I listen to music with lyrics while I'm trying to something creative, I often become too enthralled in the music and lose track of what I'm doing. One of my favorite instrumental background albums is The In Sound From Way Out! by the Beastie Boys. It gives me energy. Another favorite is Thievery Corporation.

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  10. Great comments, everyone! And I've got some new music to look up now.... Thanks!

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  11. I love Enigma, and other similar New Agey music with a beat. I would have to agree with no lyrics, as I tend to sing along much too often.

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  12. I used to listen to Pink Floyd a lot when I was writing term papers - maybe some Zeppelin. Lately I write with instrumental stuff in the background or silence. But when I am in the mood I will play some Tool or NIN, of the soundtrack from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

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Thanks for your comments!