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Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Little Musical Inspiration

How many times have we listened to a certain piece of music and had it transport us back in time? Maybe to the summer of our first kiss, the first song we danced to at our wedding, or a song that reminds us of our children.
Sometimes music can be the most inspirational thing in the world. It can lift us up when we’re feeling blue, encourage us to achieve our dreams, or just make us realize that no matter how tough things are, they always get better.

For a writer, particularly a writer who hasn’t visited the time or place in which we’ve chosen to set our novel, music can be a life saver. After all, it is possible to visit a place, less easy to visit a different time. For my novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow, I could visit Ireland – and I finally did last summer. But it’s a bit harder to visit Ireland in 1850!

Enter my rather extensive collection of Irish music, mostly traditional airs. There’s nothing I like better than listening to a fiddle and a tin whistle playing the plaintive air of Danny Boy, or the merry strains of the Galway Reel. I find this music is very evocative not only of the place, but of the people, too. There’s none like the Irish for wonderful music. After all, isn’t the harp one of her national symbols?

Recently, while writing my current WIP, I’ve relied on different types of music. Since my Irish hero came to America on a coffin ship in 1847, songs like Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears were very valuable as a soundtrack to the story. And while I’m writing the “Black Moment,” I’ve been listening to sad love songs. In particular, Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face has been very helpful to get me into the mood.
How about you? Is there a certain song that brings back memories, good or bad? If you’re a writer, is there a certain “soundtrack” to your stories?

38 comments:

Anita Clenney said...

I don't usually listen to music while I write. I seem to do better with silence. However, I can listen to Loreena McKennitt and I'm immediately inspired to write. She's just amazing. A mix of Celtic, Irish, folk. IF I listen to music while I write, usually it's her. I also like Nickleback. Complete change of pace there. They have one song that immediately transports me into the middle of my story.

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Anita, thanks for stopping by. I love Loreena McKennit, not surprising, since I'm a lifelong Celtophile. She's also a fellow Canadian.

Ann Lethbridge said...

Anita, I am with you, no sound, just the voices in my head. In fact when I'm driving, I use music to block them out, because I used to find myself trying to make notes while I was driving. Not a good thing at all.

I love all kinds of music, classical, rock, country and western. But while I am writing I like peace and quiet.

Cynthia Owens said...

Ann, whatever works for you, you should continue. Sometimes, when I'm working on a scene that has a lot of dialogue, I'll listen to instrumental music - no voices, just music flowing over and around me. Therefore, no distractions. Thanks for visiting!

Virginia said...

Yes there are old songs that bring back memories! Some I even relate to certain people from my past!

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Virginia, thanks for visiting! Whether the memories are good or bad, and whether the music brings back people we want to remember or forget, it seems it's always there, doesn't it?

Moilatar said...

Hello,

I do listen to the music most of the time and I've a good collection of old vinyls. I like Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Cocteau Twins,Enigma or even classical music on the back ground. Those are just a few to mention, there are other albums and artists as well on my shelves. :) I normally have some candles on and tune in to a right mood, I prefer being on my own while I am creative. That is the moment when the stories start to come alive, as pictures in my mind.

Kathryn Albright said...

I tend to write in silence also. Music with words distracts me and I think about what the singers are saying and although I love movie soundtracks I tend to then think about the movie and not write. Music does get me in the mood to write though--For my westerns I like the soundtracks from Man from Snowy River, Big Country, and Legends of the Fall.

Thanks for the suggestion of Loreena McKennitt. I've never heard her before and will have to check out a few of her songs on You tube to see what I think.

I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions for acoustic guitar music (just the guitar). I'd love to find some of that for background music. I think that might be nice to write to.

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Moilatar, thanks for stopping by. Its fascinating to hear the very different ways we have of getting into a creative mood!

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Kathryn, yes, I sometimes find the lyrics distracting, but at other times they can be inspirational. I guess it depends on where I am in the story.

I love Loreena McKennitt. Her music has a lovely, almost Medievel feel to it.

Thanks for stopping by!

Blythe Gifford said...

I create a soundtrack for every book I write. It helps me get in the mood and stay in the mood. (When I hear that music, I have to write. Like Pavlov's dog!) Music is very tied to memory for me, so I can't use anything for a book that has any personal meaning.

Nicole North said...

Great post! Yes, sometimes I listen to music while I write and other times I don't. Sometimes I have specific soundtracks for certain books. And sometimes not. There doesn't seem to be a pattern for me except to go with what inspires me. If a certain song inspired the story, then I find it helpful to listen to that song just before I begin writing for the day. Other times, I've become stuck at a certain spot in a story, and then a song will inspire the solution or evoke the emotion I'm looking for to finish it. I love everything from Celtic to rock. :) Like Anita, two of my favorites are Loreena McKennitt and Nickleback.

Donna Goode said...

Hi Cynthia, I enjoyed your post. I write about pre-Revolutionary and love to listen to Baroque music, especially Albinoni. It is graceful and lovely and puts me right into the period and my characters' heads. Agreed...lyrics are distracting as is any loud or raucous music. I never listen to that sort of thing while writing (although I love classic rock, Celtic ballads, and country. I even like Gregorian chant, bagpipes and Baroque opera!) Great post. Thanks!

Josh Lockwood said...

I'm with you, Cynthia. When I was writing Woman With a Past, I listened to Irish music almost constantly. And I'm not talking about the Saint Paddy's Day music that everyone knows, but the really old stuff ... Tarry Trousers and Eamonn of the Hill.

To me, it was almost like writing in deep POV, where you're really inside your characters' heads.

What can I say? It worked for me.

Pat McDermott said...

I know I'm writing up a storm when I realize I forgot to turn on the music! I have different playlists I custom made for different types of scenes, but none of them have lyrics. Mostly I listen to meditative Celtic music that I don't really "hear." Recently I discovered a new CD called Music from Ireland and Scotland by Grainne Hambly and William Jackson. Hambly plays an Irish harp, Jackson a Scottish harp. The sound they've produced is so incredibly beautiful and inspiring, I've made copies for my car and my night time CD player upstairs! I love it.

Terry Blain said...

I always listen to music when I write - usually without lyrics, as the words can distract you.

When writing KENTUCKY GREEN, I listened to the soundtrack of The Last of the Mochians - which had close to the same setting. I also listened to Scottish folksongs, as one of the secondary character is from Scotland, and this gave me the syntax to make him sound different from the American hero.

When I was writing COLORADO SILVER, COLORADO GOLD, I found a CD called Durango Saloon, and of course, my story is set in Durango, and part of it in a saloon. How cool is that?

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Blythe, what a great idea! If I had a soundtrack for any of my books, it would consist of traditional Irish music and songs from the Civil War - preferably instrumentals so the lyrics wouldn't distract me. Thanks for visiting!

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Nicole, good to see you here! I know what you mean about a song inspiring a story. In my case, it was The Fields of Athenry that inspired my heroine's backstory for my first novel, In Sunshine or in Shadow. For the soon-to-be-released sequel, Coming Home, it's a medley of Irish (again!) tunes from the Irish Brigade.

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Donna, glad you enjoyed the post. It seems as if most of us who do listen to music while we write listen to music from the time period we're writing about. I guess that's to be expected from historical writers!

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Josh, that's exactly it, you're channeling your characters! I much prefer traditional Irish tunes, too. Thanks for stopping by.

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Pat, good to see you here. I almost always make sure to put on the CD before I start writing - unless I've come up with an idea unexpectedly and have to rush down to my office to write it down! I have a couple of wonderful CDs by Will Millar (formerly of the Irish Rovers) that are wonderfully inspirational. There's nothing like the sound of a harp to relax you, is there?

Cynthia Owens said...

Hey, Terry, Durango is very cool! Most writers seem to agree that lyrics can be distracting. It's nice to have music flowing around you like a magical stream - and hopefully inspiring you! Thanks for visiting!

Lexi said...

I HAVE to have music when I'm writing. I usually buy a new CD for each manuscript with music that I think fits the story. Irish and Scottish tunes for my Scottish short contemporaries, rock/alternative for my suspense stories.

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Lexi, it's neat that you have a CD for each book. I just stick with the tried and true, since most of my manuscripts have an Irish hero anyway. Thanks for stopping by!

Micole Black said...

Yes, music is a big part of my writing. I write western romance, so I listen to a lot of country music!

Micole

Cynthia Owens said...

The consensus seems to be that writers listen to music that reflects their stories. Thanks for visiting, Micole!

Sally said...

I am a 'silence is golden' kind of girl. If I need white noise I like to put classical in the background but that is rare. I have that mother's ability to tune out all things and while writing my focus is inside. I would be hard pressed to remember what was playing.

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Sally, if I'm deep into a scene, I sometimes don't even realize what's playing either. I guess it's all in the ability to tune out the unnecessary. Thanks for visiting!

Martha Lawson said...

I'm a reader, not a writer, but I've always got some kind of music going when I'm reading. Most of the time, I'm not paying that much attention to the music. Just don't like silence!! Nickelback is awesome - they are my favorite band!!

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

lisanneharris said...

Great post! I listen to Pink Floyd, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Creed, and others while writing. Somehow it helps me to tune out the outside world and focus inward to the amazing things my characters are saying and doing.

I listen to British/Irish/Scottish talk radio when I need to submerse myself in the dialect of my h/h's homeland.

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Martha, as both a writer and a reader, I tend to have either music or television on when I'm reading (or my family does). It's easy to tune out the noise when you're really into a good book. Thanks for visiting!

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Lisanne, thanks for visiting. I never thought of listening to talk radio to pick up dialect. What a wonderful idea!

librarypat said...

The first song that comes to mind is TIME IN A BOTTLE by Jim Croce. It says so much about a relationship and what one could want it to be, for me at any rate.

I listen to Celtic music most of the time. If not that, it is classical, jazz or music from the 60's and 70's. I really like most music.

supernatural said...

I'm not a writer but an avid reader.
I have always felt that music is the voice of the soul just for the way it can induce memories and make us feel.
A beautiful song I love is Exhile's I want to Kiss You All Over, a beautiful love song.Or Marvin Gaye, Barry White. But my favorite is Golden Oldies from the 70's. :) Have I just dated myself ? lol
Carol L.

Carol L. said...

ooops--I didn't realize the account was logged in on my daughter's name. (supernatural) Sorry.
Carol L.
Lucky4750@aol.com

Cynthia Owens said...

Not that I'm a biased opinion or anything, but it seems Celtic music is the most popular for writing! Thanks for stopping by, librarypat!

Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Carol, I like your descrpition of music as the voice of the soul. A friend of mine told me, "music speaks the universal imageless language of the heart." Thanks for visiting!

Andrea I said...

It's usually old songs that bring back memories. I distinctly remember a comment by my boyfriend (now my husband) in reference to a song.