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26 October 2011

Music: the Food of Love?

If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
the appetite may sicken, and so die.

~ Duke Orsino, Twelfth Night, I, i. 1-2

Hint: in the Elizabethan era, "die" was also a euphemistic synonynm for orgasm. But sometimes a banana was just a banana. And die just meant die.

When it comes to a little background music, do you adore it to the point of ecstasy -- or is all that cacophony killing you? Inspiration? Or distraction?

Much of the writing we hoydens do, and read, is the food of love, whether fiction or nonfiction as it relates to the lives of our characters. And each of us has our process as we work, or chill and enjoy a pleasure read.

Is music part of yours, and how does it feed your creative appetite? Do you listen to music as you work? Does it have to be from the era in which your story is set in order for you to feel immersed in your narrative as you craft it, or do you have favorite symphonies, tracks, or Broadway and film scores that get your juices going, even if they're from a different time period? At one point, while I was simultaneously slogging away at three survival jobs while I was writing my first five novels (and this was in the pre iPod days), I had the cassette of the soundtrack of The Last of the Mohicans blasting in my ear during my walk to the subway every day, and I wasn't even in front of the computer at the time. But it served as my daily dose of artistic inspiration and sufficed until I was able to get back to work on my writing career.

Are you a Rodgers & Hammerstein type, and your hills are alive with the sound of music? Or, like Simon & Garfunkel, do you prefer the sound of silence while you work?

9 Comments:

Blogger Isobel Carr said...

I prefer silence, but given that I live in a city, I often need music as a "white noise screen". My favorite thing to put on is Arcangelos Chamber Ensemble's Baroque Garden for Concentration. Jo Beverley suggested it to me, and it's really wonderful. I also like Lisa Gerrard and Dead Can Dance (nonsense words for lyrics, so I’m not distracted by them). I tried a bunch of The String Quartet’s cover albums (The Smiths, Tool, Nine Inch Nails, New Order), but because I know the songs, the lyrics end up running through my head, which I find really distracting.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

I don't know Arcangelos Chamber Ensemble's Baroque Garden for Concentration, Isobel. I'll have to listen to it. I, too, find things with lyrics distracting. If I know them, I'm tempted to sing along or my mind will start to focus on what words come next insted of on my ms., and if I don't know the words, I'd be listening to them.

I can't listen to hard rock or punk, rap, etc., at all, while I'm working. Actually, I can't listen to the latter two at all, ever. It's too much of an assault on my brain. Country tends to fall into the same category, although I sometimes like to sing country ballads, because they're melodic and all about storytelling.

I need, enjoy, am inspired by, melody.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Diane Whiteside said...

I am very inspired by music. My hero and heroine have theme songs, which express their core conflict; I usually discover those songs before I write the book. Figuring those out is part of my character interview process. Heck, even the tempo tells me something about them.

I also listen to music they'd enjoy while working on their book, usually while driving to work, etc. I'm far too easily distracted to listen to lyrics while writing. I've discovered many new genres of music this way. Spanish bagpipes, anyone? How about some very early ragtime or railroad work songs? It's a lot of fun.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Wow, Diane, I'm impressed with the way you weave music into your character's biographies as part of their weight and texture. I love early ragtime and railroad work songs (though I've probably heard only a few of the latter). Can't say I've ever heard Spanish bagpipes, though! Are they more melodic than their Scottish counterparts?

8:27 PM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Retired opera singer. Three degrees in music. Uh yes, music plays a big part in my writing life. Like everyone else I tend to listen to music without words when I am writing as it is far less distracting. I listen to film soundtracks (Last of the Mohicans is a good one!) One of the few pieces with words I have used for inspiration is Mozart's Requiem. It was what I listened to most of the time I wrote The Raven's Heart, my second manuscript.

My current WIP I am listening to the instrumental pieces from the soundtrack of Tangled.

My third manuscript, The Price of a Gentleman, I listened to famous Adagios and a lot of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis is an amazing piece to listen to while writing.

Another piece I used for The Price of a Gentleman is the last two movements of Symphony No. 5 by Dimitri Shostakovich. Anyone who has not listened to his work, especially his symphonies is missing some incredible music. I had the privilege of doing some solo work on a piece by Dimitri Shostakovich under the direction of his son, Maxim with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra. Trust me, the father definitely passed his musical instincts and intensity on to his son!

8:53 PM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Shostakovich is one of those names I know, yet am not familiar with his music. Time for me to broaden my aural horizons, I think! Louisa, given your lifetime in music (so your "catalog" is more vast than some of the rest of us), and you've been so specific, how do you choose which pieces to feed your writing as you work?

4:26 AM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Sometimes the music evokes the scene and at other times the scene evokes a musical memory. You are all too correct in saying my "catalog" of music is rather large. There are times I am writing a scene and I find myself humming a certain piece of music. That is what happened when I was writing The Raven's Heart. As I was writing the opening scene I kept hearing the Dies irae from Mozart's Requiem. I pulled out the CD and it became a big part of the writing of that book.

Deciding on the Tangled soundtrack was a bit serendipitous. I had just started His Charming Seductress when a friend recommended I watch the film. I loved the music and bought the CD. I was writing some background for my hero and heroine and the music just started running through my head.

I often plot while driving. And I listen to NPR in my car. The Shostakovich has long been one of my favorites and when I heard those last two movements I knew they evoked the anguish of Cain and Sarafina's relationship.

The Adagios have long been my sex scene music. Just something sexy about an Adagio!

Overall I think it is the emotional response music evokes in me. It speaks to me and many times it causes my characters to speak to me as well.

The Raven's Heart is a Gothic Regency historical.

The Price of a Gentleman is a darker Regency historical.

His Charming Seductress has a sort of Gothic setting with a Regency romantic comedy feel to it.

The music which fed or feeds those stories just fits.

Another composer, not well known, but who writes angst, sensuality and anguish with exquisite beauty is Vitezslav Novak. His music is a combination of British ethereal morning mists and Eastern European mysticism and romanticism. I recommend the Tatra Mountains / Eternal Longing / Slovak Suite CD which features Libor Pesek (Czech conductor, I think!) and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Thanks, Louisa, for the recommendation -- and the explanation!

3:43 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

I should ad that I discovered that my cable offers music channels and three of them are classical. So I now put one of those on in the background when I write.

8:01 AM  

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