Friday, May 6, 2011

Music and Writing

For the most part, when I write, I prefer silence. But on rare occasions, a song will strike me, and get stuck in my head, and furthermore inspire me to write. I’ll then find myself playing the song over and over while I craft a story, with the song playing both a direct and indirect role in where the story goes.

Sometimes it’s the words of the song that inspire the tale. This was the case with a story of mine called "Leaning to Read," inspired by the Josh Alan song of the same name. Of course the finished product came out dramatically different than the song–the two share nothing more than the inspiration of origin. The song is about a relationship gone bad, and the story about telepathy, and a relationship newly found.

Sometimes it’s the music of the song that inspires me. This was the case when I was once listening to a song called "Lessons Never Learned" by Walt Wilkins. The music was so beautiful and transporting that I found myself playing it over and over again. It was coming up on my writing time, so I brought the ipod out with me where I’d set up my laptop, and started the song. I wrote "Lessons Never Learned" at the top of the page, and kept playing the song over and over until I had a little gem of a three page piece of flash fiction. I like to think that the soul of that song somehow made it into the cadence and flow of the story I crafted.

Another couple other songs that I recall that made the ‘play over and over’ routine were "Silent All These Years" by Tori Amos, and "Heroin," by Lou Reed. The first was for a particular scene in my novella "In Black Mourn I" that I was trying to conjure up some poignant emotional power, and the latter for the story "Beauty, Piquant," where the song’s frenzied madness cast its bent upon a scene of a sexual escapade gone wrong.

Since I’m talking about music and writing here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the music of Donal Hinely and Glasnots has also been quite inspirational over the years. Donal’s music, particularly during his Glasnots years, has a markedly medieval/renaissance flare to it, and it lends itself well to my fantasy stories. Donal’s songs "Firefly Summer Night," "Summer’s Boy," and "Mayfly Matinee" were quite inspirational as I wrote my story "Firefly Summer."

Another artist who’s songs are hauntingly inspirational are those of Nick Drake. Drake was a young British singer/songwriter who released three albums to minimal exposure in the early seventies, and then died of a drug overdose. His music languished in obscurity for almost three decades, until an ad exec used his song "Pink Moon" for a Volkswagon commercial. He rose to a new found posthumous popularity at this point, something for which I am glad, because otherwise I might never had heard of him. His song "Fly" inspired my flash fiction story "Way to Blue," which takes its title from another Drake song.

If you’re having trouble with your day’s writing, you could do worse than throw a song on whatever player you fancy and see where it takes you.

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