Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Music

I have probably mentioned this before, but music is very important to me. I listen to it a lot, especially when I'm first drafting. Finding the right stuff to key a mood or emotional atmosphere is very important. It's one reason I have a fondness for instrumental pieces. Lyrics can be distracting, although with songs I know well I can put them in the background, even sing along without it interrupting the flow of my own work (figure that one out for the man who can lose a thread if the door moves or the cat walks in).

It doesn't have to be orchestral, although I do enjoy a full-out symphonic work - Mahler, Beethoven, Sibelius, Rachmaninov... Film music is also good as it is written specifically to accompany pictures and evoke emotional responses. Again, it doesn't matter if I know the film. It can even help, providing a visual texture into which I can tap (Although whether this ever makes it into my writing is another matter).

I also enjoy contemporary instrumental work - Ozric Tentacles, Shpongle, Tangerine Dream, that sort of thing. But other artists and bands can hit the spot. Some (like Rammstein) provide energy and a post-apocalyptic industrial background that informs some of my work (Engel is a perfect example), others are very good at unlocking surreal trains of thought (or derailing ones going in the wrong direction - it's a harsh battlefield in my head, sometimes).

On the whole, music also keeps me emotionally balanced. I can indulge feelings by proxy, saving me those occasional tumbles off the edge into darkness. It doesn't always work, but I know I'm on the mend when I can put the headphones on, turn the volume up, and make my fingers sore typing in rhythm to the music. Like now.

All is not right with the world. But some things are better than they were and where I was recently clinging onto the precipice, I'm now enjoying the view and beginning to write some of it down. Funny things heads.

My love of music was inherited from my mother. It flowered in the late '60s (and has been stuck there ever since, some would say). I was a serial concert goer, travelling all over (and much further than my parents ever knew - but if you wanted great gigs, sometimes you had to get up to London). I cannot remember now how often I saw some bands. Pink Floyd, Nice, Incredible String Band, Free, the Bonzos, Hawkwind, Edgar Broughton, Strawbs, Fairport Convention, Hawkwind, Leonard Cohen, Traffic, High Tide, Third Ear Band, John Mayall and various incarnations of the Bluesbreakers, Colosseum (always better live than on their studio albums, I thought), Family, Van Der Graaf Generator, Roy Harper, Hawkind, some more Roy Harper, Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Hawkwind (did I mention them?). All of that has provided a soundtrack to both my outer and inner life . I suspect a lot of it (and I know for sure some of it) has found its way into my writing.

Sometimes when I'm reading, I hear music. No. Don't ring for those men in white coats (not just yet). It's always a tune I know, and I often wonder if that or something similar was playing when that sentence or paragraph was drafted.

I know some people find it impossible to work with music playing. I cannot do major editing. That requires the kind of silence you get at two in the morning when the rest of the world is asleep. But for the rest of it, I am grateful such a magic exists.

4 comments:

liz fenwick said...

Interesting - I work the exact opposite to you. When in first draft mode I can't bear music to intrude but when I edit I want it - sometimes need to help me carve out the story from the shapeless mass. It can help me see the story if I have created the right 'soundtrack' for it.Elizabeth Chadwick really uses music - here's a link to her blog about the soundtracks to each book http://www.elizabethchadwick.com/Blogs/blogs_soundtracks.html
lx

Graeme K Talboys said...

Thanks for the link. This is fascinating stuff, the different ways in which we work and how we make use of things like music to help us on the journey.

Carol said...

When I need to concentrate on writing a report (or an essay for Uni) I need complete silence but when I draw....I listen to all kinds of things!!

It's interesting learning how others work isn't it

C x

Graeme K Talboys said...

Hi Carol. It certainly is. I'm still trying to get my head round the idea that some people can work while Radio 4 is on. I just have to stop and listen.