Music and Writing

Posted: March 19, 2012 in Shelf of Honor, Writing

So as promised, Music and Writing.

This is a snippet of the query I put out there last week…

I’ve had the interplay of music and writing on my mind ever since I read Jeff VanderMeer‘s Finch as part of The Sixty-Four last year. In the back “About the Book” page there was a paragraph saying Finch has an official soundtrack by a band called Murder By Death. The writing influenced the band and the music “was a substantial influence on the book’s mood and tone.” Direct quote. I really wish that had been printed in the front of the book and I saw it before I read it.This has completely fascinated me and I’ve run across it again with Lauren Beukes Zoo City.

I got a few answers back and frankly the answers are a bit different than I thought they would be. I don’t consider that a bad thing. It’s kind of like when you watch Mythbusters and they get more excited over the unexpected results than anything. Some examples….

Shelf of Honor author Kelly McCullough (@KellyDMcC) said via ye ol’ twitter…

I almost never write to music. Only when I need to block out some other sound and never with lyrics. I find it distracting.

The epic Jim Brady (@UrHumbleNarr8or) echoed the same sentiment although I must have accidentally deleted the response because I can’t find it for the life of me. I swear it was a similar thing.

So out of all the responses I got, the overwhelming opinion is that silence is golden. The only dissenter was over on the page I posed the question and only partial. Myke Cole (@MykeCole ) said that silence is only sometimes golden and music without lyrics is for the rest of the time. I actually did a similar thing writing papers back in film school. Once I learned the lyrics to an album, I couldn’t use it for work anymore. But papers for class didn’t get infused with the mood of my music like proper writing does. (They just got infused with sleep deprivation hallucinations)

Why is this? It actually did take me off guard and I got to thinking why my opinion is different. Not that I think there is anything wrong with the way my creativity works, it just got me curious. The better to understand it is the better to take advantage of it and all. First of all, I’m a white noise kind of person. I’ve had tinnitus as long as I’ve known. I thought it was normal until I was 22 or so. I sleep with a fan on or will have the tv on in the background when I’m doing other things. But that’s kind of a minor thing. When I got back into writing I had an hour long commute to Connecticut. Driving down the interstate on a road I’ve driven a thousand times even before starting that commute gave me a lot of time to space out. I got in the habit of plotting out scenes and chapters and such while driving. It was actually creepy sometimes because I’d space out and then be in another state. In college on my CT to NH run, I forgot all of Massachusetts. But I very rarely drive without music so the two became associated with each other. A little Pavlovian. I can’t do quite or low tempo music when I’m driving, even if it’s music i like. I end up with a lot of punk, metal and experimental weird stuff. (I was a college radio DJ after all, weird is part of the recipe)

Tub Ring‘s Secret Handshakes is officially the unofficial album of the current novel I’m working on. “Cryogenic Love Song” has a very drifting in space kind of feel I built a scene around. Ironically enough, in my head I changed the song to a different one on the album. The early notes I’ve been storing up for the next novel I tackle has a main character as front man for a punk band. Living vicariously through my characters in that one. I have a mental image of that one tied in with The Descendents “When I Get Old.” These are all songs I rock out to when I’m driving, often very loudly with the windows open.

I like to think that some of the tempo and energy can rub off on the writing I’m doing. I think if I could manage a bit of that it would be quite beneficial to my writing and maybe give me an excuse to find new music.

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