This doesn’t mean I would ever attempt to create music. Or lyrics.
It does mean that I have music playing nearly every hour of the day – from the time I awake until I sleep, especially when I write.
I used to insist on the correct music before I would even read. I remember wearing out the soundtracks for EXODUS and GONE WITH The WIND in the course of reading the books.
Now days, I am more concerned with music when I write than when I read. When I say I am concerned, it is more accurate to use the term “obsessed.” I use music as a crutch, creating a soundtrack for each book. This helps me, like Pavlov’s dog, to respond appropriately to stimuli. When I put on the music, it is time to write. If you do this morning after morning, resistance becomes futile. Cue music; hands on keyboard. (To write, not to play!)
For writers who are tempted to kick and scream before coming to the page, this is very helpful. It also helps when, months after you released the manuscript to the editor, it comes back and you need to revisit the story for certain, uh, enhancements. Put on your “soundtrack,” you are back in the story.
I try to be faithful to the time period and choose music that my characters might have actually heard, but since I write in the fourteenth century, this creates certain challenges. The truth is, our approximation of what people in that era heard is only that: an approximation. Sometimes, I settle for music with the “feel” of the story or the period I’m writing.
But for my current release, IN The MASTER’S BED, music was of particular importance. The book is the story of a heroine who runs away from home, disguised as a man, to study at the university, where women are forbidden. She meets the hero, who, thinking she is a he, takes the “lad” under his wing. The hero plays a “gittern,” a sort of medieval guitar. In the course of the story, his music, from drinking songs for the young scholars to a love song for the heroine, plays an important role. While I knew I couldn’t convey the music to my readers with words, I at least wanted to hear some myself so I would know what it was like.
How could I write what I had never heard?
Luckily, I found the answer, a CD titled “Songs from the Taverne: Ballads and drinking song from the time of Chaucer.” The time period was perfect. My students spent lots of time in taverns. And Chaucer even mentions “gyternes,” so there were several played on the disc.
Was the final result worth the search? Can you hear the music on the page that I wrote? Well, I can only hope that some of it came through. I’ll give a copy of IN The MASTER’S BED to one lucky commenter and you’ll be able to decide for yourself.
What about you? Do you use music, either as a reader or as a writer, to get into the mood? Or do you prefer to read or write in silence?
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