This month’s AbsoluteWrite Blog Chain is about music and writing – the merging of the two. Some before me…
…have written about the pieces of music that best evoke their characters and/or their novels. Others have written about what they listen to while writing.
I don’t have a “playlist” really because I don’t have an iPod or anything with a lower case “i” in front of it. Because I’m a crusty ancient luddite when it comes to technology. I’m perfectly okay with my cds. Most of the time, when I’m writing, I prefer silence but that’s hard to come by in most settings.
When I do listen to something when I’m writing, it’s instrumental music, mostly classical and jazz. I can’t write and listen to someone singing. It confuses my brain. It pays more attention to the songs than the task at hand. Especially if my secret husband, David Bowie, suddenly pops up and asks me to dance the blues.
That said, I often find myself in libraries (I work on a college campus), attempting to write, where there are a multitude of distractions (namely: college kids on their cell phones) and so I pop in a cd and jam an uncomfortable pair of ear buds (leant to me by my very kind nine-year-old daughter) and attempt to create some “white noise” or some general mood conducive to banging out 1,000 words during my lunch hour, if I’m lucky. These days that mood is either Charlie Parker (the “Bird” soundtrack) or Trio Rococo’s Norwegian Wood, a cd of instrumental versions of Beatles songs with oboe, harp and cello. Here they are performing Eleanor Rigby. I can’t escape the Beatles. I was dancing in my crib to them when they were in their heyday. I am that old.
When I was writing my first novel, I listened exclusively to jazz – Wayne Shorter, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Tommy Flanagan and Miles Davis, mainly. I was limited to what we already owned (which is a LOT of jazz) and I didn’t want a live version of anything because the audience noises, the clapping and hooting, were distracting.
While researching one of my character’s love for Frank Sinatra, I listened to a lot of Sinatra. Which…seriously, there IS a limit to how much Sinatra a person can listen to. I reached that limit.
In the last couple of years, I’ve been listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell. When invisioning this novel (finished and currently being hawked to agents) as a movie, I see it opening to her song “Urge for Going” with my mc walking through a hot summer morning in Virginia to her cleaning job. “Little Green” would play during the birth scene. Mitchell wrote that song about the daughter she gave up for adoption, which is what my mc is forced to do as a teenager. It’s also a really beautiful song.
In my current wip, though, as I’ve mentioned in a previous AW Blog Chain post, my mc was born in 1900 and grows up listening to a very different kind of music. I’ve spent a bit of time lately researching popular songs of the teens and twenties. Like “Peg ‘O My Heart” which was published in 1913. The link takes you to a Glenn Miller version. I’ve never researched music this old before so it’s been fun. Plus, listening to 100-year-old music makes me feel a tiny bit younger.