Words and Music

When putting together a series of ideas for Write Anything’s weekly PROMPTed post, I realised how much I focus on music as a source for understanding an emotional state when writing. When compiling the sets of prompts I began each one with a piece of music. Some of them are well known songs (Pink Floyd – On the Turning Away, Suzanne Vega – Tom’s Diner) and others more relatively obscure such as Hilltop Hoods – Chase That Feeling (an Australian hip hop group) and Primitive Radio Gods – Standing Outside a Broken Phone Box (more of a one hit wonder from the 90s). The first song is a current track by Kate Miller-Heidke – The Tiger Inside Will Eat the Child.

They were seemingly random selections taken from my memory or from play lists on my computer. Despite the diversity of genres and the different eras of music represented, each song has an emotional connection to me. Nothing world shattering or significant but a connection to the groove, the lyrics or the overall feeling of the song.

I love my music and play drums (not a bad level of playing suckage). I listen to a broad range of genres (rock, pop, jazz, whatever), but particularly like heavy metal. Engaging with the music I listen to, there is an emotional or spiritual connection with the music.

Let me talk drums for a minute. The essence of drumming is rhythm and the focus of rhythm is the pulse.  The earliest pulse we hear, but more accurately feel, is the pulse of the human heartbeat within the womb. 

Drumming is physical, spiritual, ethereal, primeval, tribal, conscious, unconscious and subconscious.  It moves your feet and taps your hands.  It provides a rhythm for the cycles of everyday living.  Relaxes the soul and hastens the heart. Drumming is sensual and visceral.

Drumming drives the rhythm.  Even in the absence of a played drum groove, the beat and rhythm are implied. Time can waver, become loose or tight depending on the emotional moment, but the pulse is never lost. 

There is a spiritual element to drumming and rhythm.  The pulse and the heartbeat of music is the driving force.  The pulse and heartbeat of rhythm can be found in the cycles of life; from the measured ritual of a cup of tea to the flow and movement of words across the page. 

As a musician, alright a drummer, I want people to engage with the music. As a writer I want the reader to engage with the words I have written, to find an emotional connection, a similar spiritual experience.

When writing I use music as a background soundtrack to either create a mood, a head space for writing or to suit the mood of the scene I’m writing. Some writers prefer the sound of silence when writing while others prefer a specific genre, band or song to help create the mood or atmosphere. Of late I have preferred instrumental music (sleepmakeswaves, Steve Lawson, Meniscus).

In Post Marked: Piper’s Reach, my character Jude, uses music as a reflection on his head space, or as a link to the past with Ella-Louise. If the reader is familiar with the music referenced, it creates a connection between the reader and the character whereby the reader is able to inhabit a similar emotional space because of the music.

Music is a conduit between the reader and the text; a pathetic fallacy to represent a character’s emotional or mental state, a reflection on their culture or the zeitgeist, or just because they’re really hip and are listening to bands you’ve never heard of. It’s another tool to draw your reader into the world of the narrative. In the novel I’m working on the main characters, both of whom play an instrument, music creates another level of characterisation.

I could fill post after post of music and musicians that inspire me, but here are a few that have inspired me of late.

Imogen Heap – Just for Now I love this song because of the live looping Imogen performs. Brilliant.

Steve Lawson Don’t Stop Believin’ 

Steve is a solo bass player who loops his instrument live. I often use his music as the background music when writing. Beautiful atmospheric and melodic playing.

Meniscus and sleepmakeswaves – Two Sydney (my home town) based post-rock instrumental bands. Brilliant live acts and wonderfully complex music. Never far off rotation on my player when writing.

A couple of other Aussie artists worth checking out: Andrew Drummond, Helen Perris, Emmy Bryce, Lissa, Telefonica. I’m pushing my hometown here, and if I could get my best mate, Steve, to hurry up and finish his album I’d promote it here, too.

I’ll have another post where I go \m/ >.< \m/ heavy metal crazy.

What music do you listen to when you write?

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One response to “Words and Music

  1. I listen to Pandora mostly and I choose my “station” based on what kind of scene I’m writing. For darker moments I use my Evanescence station, for action scenes I use Paramore which plays Hinder, Chevelle, etc, and for general writing I use Sarah Bareilles, Mumford and Sons, or Adele.

    Music works great when I write, but not when I edit. I usually need silence for that.

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