Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Music and the Muse

Does hearing song on the radio take you back to certain events? Bring to mind people or places? Inspire flashbacks of big hair and shoulder pads (oh wait, maybe that’s just me)? Do you listen to a certain song and it takes you back to specific experiences? Pink Floyds “MONEY” makes my teeth ache. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love the song! But I always listened to DARK SIDE OF THE MOON at the dentist’s office and it’s ruined it for me.

So what about music and stories? Do any songs remind you of stories you’ve read? Bring to mind characters that were so real they stuck with you for years? Or if you write, do you associate any of your books with music? A year or so ago, I discovered music was key to keeping me in the story I’m writing. At the time, I’d pick a CD and play it –over and over and over- until it basically became white noise while I wrote. Then whenever I played it, my fingers itched to write! A total Pavlov-like response, but it really helped when I had to do revisions. Pop that music in and I was right back in the story.

Then my awesome hubby got me an iPod. Oh the joy of playlists!!! I can pull from ALL my CD’s to create a personalized soundtrack to my story (okay, so this technology has been around for awhile –but its new to ME). GREAT fun, and again, it is like plugging into my Muse. Push play, write. And for those stalled moments (hours, whatever) at least its good tunes while I stare at the screen.

So... my question to you for wondering Wednesday – what do you listen to when you write? When you read? What are your fave romance tunes?

13 comments:

gailbarrett said...

Tawny - I'm very influenced by music. First off, it stays in my head forever (usually at the expense of more important information). One word can trigger entire lines of lyrics to pop up in my head. And while I'd probably never win at "Name that tune," I can usually identify a song within a few seconds of hearing the opening notes. Songs instantly take me back to whatever I was doing or where I was living at the time. The Pointer Sisters, for example, always make me feel like doing aerobics:).
As far as writing, I can get very inspired by listening to music. Usually Celtic instrumental music helps me brainstorm. I definitely associate some songs with stories I'm writing, rather like sound tracks for the movie. I've never tried to listen to the music while actually writing, though. I think that would be too distracting for me. I can't fall asleep to music, either. It commands my attention, making sleep impossible.

Alexis Morgan said...

I have always worked to music--even back when I was in high school and college. I think I need the white noise in order to concentrate. I play a lot of different artists, depending on my mood. I recently bought a new stereo for my office that will shuffle songs off the CD's although sometimes I set it to play the CDs straight through. I also have some CD's that a friend burned for me that are collections of songs by all different artists.
I've been asked way too many times how I can stand to have background noise of any kind while writing. It's nice to know I'm not the only one out there whose muse needs music. ;-D

Alexis Morgan said...

I have always worked to music--even back when I was in high school and college. I think I need the white noise in order to concentrate. I play a lot of different artists, depending on my mood. I recently bought a new stereo for my office that will shuffle songs off the CD's although sometimes I set it to play the CDs straight through. I also have some CD's that a friend burned for me that are collections of songs by all different artists.
I've been asked way too many times how I can stand to have background noise of any kind while writing. It's nice to know I'm not the only one out there whose muse needs music. ;-D

Alexis Morgan

Alexis Morgan said...

sorry about the double post. Some mornings my computer hates me.

JoAnn Ross said...

I often write to music. But never vocals, unless they're Celtic, because I get distracted by the words. Since I'm a "full immersion" writer, I tend to listen to what my characters listen to, or something that sets the scene, which was lovely during the writing of the Irish trilogy, but I got really tired of Scottish folksongs on one book, and zydeco got so old for my Callahan Brothers trilogy that I switched to an environmental CD of swamp sounds.

For one book, which began with a suicidal hero racing his Ferrarri, playing chicken with a log truck on a winding mt road in Washington's Olympic mts, I played Springsteen's "No Retreat, No Surrender," over and over again at burst your eardrum volume.

Whenever I get up against a deadline, or really need to jumpstart my writing, I play the soundtrack to Gladiator. (Which I've only seen about a gazillion times and have memorized.) Having actually been down in that dark place where the gladiators were in real life helps me, I think, to muster up a bit of that same nerve it must've taken for them to run up those stone steps into the coliseum ring and face those lions.

I, too, am one of those who's grateful for my iPod playlist which is on my computer, which makes it really easy to switch back and forth.

I also begin writing at least a couple days a week by first playing Rick Nelson's Garden Party because there are a couple lines in there that really resonate with me as a writer: "If memories were all I sang, then I'd rather drive a truck." And "I learned my lesson well. . . You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself."

Songs inspiring flashbacks -- during my flower child days in San Francisco (and yes, I fear I may be a cliche, sigh), I played folk piano in coffee houses and still think Dylan's Blowing in the Wind is one of the best songs ever written but I could go the rest of my life (and hope I do) without EVER hearing Puff the Magic Dragon again.

As for taking me back to certain events. . Let's just say I can still sing every line of Teen Angel, which I first heard while parked on K Hill with my Sweetie after a Friday Night football game and leave it at that. :D

beth burgoon said...

Like Gail, I'm very influenced by music and have memorized the lyrics of too many songs :-) I never used to write to music because I tend to concentrate more on the song than my writing, but I recently discovered I like to write a first draft to music that seems to 'go' with my story. For one of my books, the hero and heroine each had a song that reminded me of them and I played those two songs over and over again.

Music easily takes me back to a certain time or place. The Monkess, Rick Springfield and KISS are from a childhood spent singing into a hairbrush in front of the mirror. While Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Aerosmith take me back to high school :-)

Christie Craig said...

Tawny,

I love music and yes, I have songs that take me back. I have bought tapes to play while writing, but several years back, I discovered I wrote best with music without lyrics, because the words and stories in the songs pulled me away from my story. So I started writing with just soft music, which is great, but I miss the lyrics. Now when I’m working on nonfiction, the lyrics don’t bother me as much. I think I just go to a different place in my head when I write fiction– one that I have to build and hear my characters talk.

Nancy Morse said...

This past Christmas one of the local radio stations began playing Christmas tunes the day after Thanksgiving. I thought, wow, great, my favorite kind of music for a whole month. But after 4 weeks of non-stop Holly Jolly Christmas and Jingle Bell Rock, I was literally humming Christmas tunes upon waking each morning. I just couldn't get the damn things out of my head. And although I will occasionally find myself humming There's No Place Like Home For The Holidays, thankfully, they're beginning to recede.

I always write to music, but not songs with words. I don't need the distraction and I don't want those words to wind up in my writing. So I stick with classical, jazz, blues(Butterfield Blues Band) and movie sound tracks (the one from Last of the Mohicans is particularly stirring).

When I listen to an oldies station and hear something by Jefferson Airplane, I head straight back to my hippie days and concerts at the Filmore East. A few months ago I heard Alone Again Or from the old Love album and it really threw me back. Spencer Davis' Gimme Some Lovin' always gets me moving. And Jimi Hendrix Purple Haze, Laura Nyro's Eli's Comin and anything by the Velvet Underground always take me down memory lane. And then there's Satisfaction by the Stones. My honey was the drummer in a band and the summer that song was out he was playing at a sordid little dive called the Club Three. Since then, I can't hear Satisfaction without seeing the overweight, underdressed go-go dancer and the bouncer from hell at the Club Three.

Shanna Swendson said...

I usually write in total silence because even instrumental music distracts me. However, I had a hard time focusing on a book I was writing last year, and the soundtrack CD for the new version of Battlestar Galactica actually helped me focus -- it's not typical soundtrack music and instead is more atmospheric, so it helped me tune out the rest of my environment.

The only problem now is that when I'm watching the show, the moment the opening music starts, my brain says, "Okay, time to write!"

I often find that songs inspire stories. I'll hear something on the radio, and I'll find myself imagining who the person who'd be singing that song must be and what the context is. I also sometimes make soundtracks for my books, to help me shape the emotional arc of the story.

Shobhan Bantwal said...

I'm like Shanna. I like writing in silence. Music, talk radio and television are distractions I can't afford when I'm writing, especially because I have very little time to write in.

But driving is a different matter. Music is great when I'm driving to and from my full-time job. I wish I could stay home all day and write -- in complete silence...

Terry Z McDermid said...

Okay, Alexis, maybe your double post bumped my early morning post -- I hopped in when there were 0 comments and came back to find I wasn't even on anymore. Ah, well, the day went superb and I had no idea this was happening -- I will not take it as a sign! :)

I have always been bad about knowing the names of groups or songs so I can't even go there for this post. My husband and sons think it's some sort of requirement to always ask, "Mom, who's this?" when anything comes on the radio. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, usually pretty good. Some of the others. . . lucky guesses.

I can sing entire verses of many popular songs from the past umpteen decades -- my mom and dad were big with music, too, and we grew up with all kinds of records in our house. First people on our block to have a full stereo system and the neighbors actually came out to watch when it was delivered.

Because of that, I like it quiet when I'm writing so I don't get distracted from my characters' thoughts and the lyrics. I now am using a fountain my youngest son gave me for Christmas. I will play Andrea Boccelli's Romanza very loud when I'm doing a last sweep through the house before I settle to write. And driving down the road with an Oldies station on is a must.

Jill James said...

Tawny, ahhh, big hair and shoulder pads. Oops, showing my age again. LOL I listen to Celtic instrumentals when I write or Barry Manilow. However uncool Barry is, I love him. :)

Samantha Hunter said...

I'm another one who needs quiet when I write, including no music. Sometimes I can write with the TV on, only at night, though, and turned down low.

I do like to think about books when I'm listening to music elsewhere, driving or housecleaning, and whatever's playing might spark a notion, but when I'm actually writing, music has to be silenced with everything else...