Do you listen to music while you work? A Mozart sonata? John Coltrane’s sax or some classic Miles Davis? A bit of the Cuban touch? Coldplay’s latest CD? Or soundtracks from your favourite movies?
It could be that, to work successfully, you need a blur of background sound to keep away the silence. Or is it deliberately chosen music that fits the mood of the piece you’re writing? Does it relate to your work in progress? Or do you prefer silence?
I’ve asked a few of my writerly friends about their preferences….
If Australian author, Gabrielle Wang wants to write a particularly emotional scene she might listen to Bach. But apart from those moments she don’t like music on while she writes as she get too carried away by it and can’t focus on the story inside her head.
New Zealand author, Brian Falkner has a very definite way of working – he finds a specific piece of music that reflects the kind of emotion in the scene he’s writing. If it’s an important or emotional scene, he sometimes spends as much time trying to find an appropriate piece of music as he does writing the scene.
I find that the right music can not only affect you emotionally while you are writing, but it can also bring imagery to mind that you can use in the scene.
Usually he uses the music choice once because then it’s become tied to that particular book and scene in his mind.
Here’re some of Brian’s choices, (if you know the music you can imagine the scene he’s writing):
1812 Overture / Barber’s Adagio for Strings / Quidam (Almost the entire album) – Cirque du Soleil / Firebird Suite – Stravinsky / Night on Bald Mountain – Mussorgsky / Ave Maria – Schubert / Oh, Fortuna – Orff / The Swan – Saint-Saëns
Adagio for Strings (watch it, I guarantee this will send a shiver up your spine – one of the most powerful, poignant compositions ever made).
Australian author, Dee White has a different way to write.
I don’t listen to music. I enjoy writing in the quiet or immersing myself in the sounds of nature outside my door. At the moment, I’m enjoying writing on the deck with the sounds of the river rushing past:)
Claire Saxby, another Aussie children’s author, finds music keeps her going if she’s writing something new, and it tunes out ambient noise. She says beat music will keep the words flying. Favourite titles include Augie March’s two albums, The Frames (Irish band), Waifs, Cat Empire, Paul Kelly. Familiar albums allow for subliminally absorbing – so much so, often she doesn’t notice them finish.
Michael Gerard Bauer, a fellow Ashgrovian, and the author of the splendid story, The Running Man (and others), confesses to needing silence when he works because he’s easily distracted.
I thought I’d give it a go so I put on a cd but I couldn’t write a thing because I kept listening to the music! Maybe I just didn’t pick the right songs?
Michael does have a point. There is music that is impossible to write by – I’ve tried it. Like Rhythms Del Mundo CUBA. It’s is a collection of musicians, from Coldplay, Sting, Arctic Monkeys, to Quincy Jones and Ibraham Ferrer (from The Buena Vista Social Club) and others playing their music with a Cuban influence – all with the intent of raising funds and awareness about climate change. Great music! But why is it impossible to write by? How can one sit at the computer churning out another story when one is too busy salsa-ing?
Nathan Bransford, U.S. author and blogger doesn’t listen to music much, but his blog has some interesting comments on the topic.
My favourite music to write by depend on what story I’m working on. If it’s an action scene or dramatic dialogue, then it’s the soundtrack from The Lord of the Rings – especially when the Orcs are storming Helm’s Deep. For background music, I’m back in my Celtic ancestry with any of five Loreena McKennitt CDs. Or Paul Kelly’s Songs from The South.
Do you have music favourites to work by? I’d love to hear your choices.
Here’s some music to get you in the groove! Coldplay‘s Clocks on the album, Rhythms Del Mondo with a very Cuban beat. Even better than the original version.
P.S. My favourite Music quotes:
‘Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.’ ~Charlie Parker
‘Life can’t be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years.’ ~William F. Buckley, Jr.