Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Musings about Music and Writing

Ever since I heard this piece in the Game of Thrones Season 3 trailer, I haven't been able to stop listening to it. It's called Bones by MS MR and pretty much won't leave me alone.

My favorite bits are: "Midnight hours, cobble street passages, forgotten savages...forgotten savages.." and
"These are hard times, these are hard times..for dreamers.."

I swear, it gets better every time I listen to it. There's a mix of dreaminess, bitterness and darkness in it that makes me obsess over it appeals to me on a very visceral level. Sometimes, music triggers powerful emotions that I can't quite explain and this song is one of those.

To me as a writer, music is powerful and beautiful and inspiring and a very essential part of the creative process. It is a muse of sorts, if you will. I generally tend to associate songs (some quite strongly so) with a particular story or a particular character or one character's relationship with another character. So, music helps to inspire me while I think about the story, the characters as well as the mood I'm trying to create. But when I'm actually writing and listening to music at the same time, that's a different kettle of fish.

I know that many writers listen to music while they write to put themselves in the desired mood or in the right mindset or just to block out external (or even internal?) noise during the writing. And last year, I tried that. But it didn't quite work out for me...I mean sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. So, I stopped listening to music while I write.

The reason for that? I tend to absorb music that I listen to on a subconscious level and when I write while listening to music, sometimes things that I don't expect creep into my writing - it might be a mood or the way I phrased the words in a scene or sub-scene. For example, suppose I'm writing a funny scene and a melancholy song comes on, then some of that melancholy might bleed into that scene. And that is kind of unwanted because in that case, I feel like the music is artificially influencing what I'm writing and that I'm not telling the story truthfully (especially in terms of mood or whatever else crept in). This might be weird, but this is the way I currently feel about it. Who knows? Maybe that will change someday...or not.

So, my solution was to set time apart where I just listen to particular songs and think about the story or the characters I'm focusing on and then jot down things that occur to me about them in my notes. Some writers recommend putting together a playlist of songs that suit a particular story and then listening to this playlist over and over again while writing that story. But again this doesn't work for me because most songs tend to lose their original appeal to me if I listen to them too many times over, so I'm a bit leery of trying that. What I could try is to listen to music that I associate with particular scenes or characters while I'm editing. I'll see how that works out.

After all, creative work involves a fair bit of trying out new and different approaches to see what works and what doesn't.

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