Thursday, November 10, 2011

Writing to Music

It's been a while since I talked about music on here, and since I spent all morning tweeting back and forth with someone across the pond about good scores to write to, I thought I might as well blog about music today. (Note, I tried to post this earlier and, despite saving, Blogger deleted half my post and then froze me out for a good 45 minutes. So this was supposed to go up over an hour ago.)

For those of you who don't know, I was a music major for a bit in college. Ultimately I loved it too much to make a career out of it and switched to English, where the professors didn't suck the life and love out of the subject for me. Even though I was no longer a music major, I continued to take lessons and play in ensembles; this confused some of my peers, as they couldn't understand why I would put myself through the horror of recitals and end of the year playing exams (juries) in front of a panel of music professors. I still wonder if they really love playing their instruments if they have to ask me why I continuously sought to improve my skill and learned to embrace the stage.

Anywho, as a musician music is an incredibly huge part of my life, and one that bleeds over into my writing life as well. Why? Because art inspires art. Music can be soothing and inspirational or so passionate it can move you to tears; it can also be angry and hateful or sad and heartbreaking. It lends itself well to writing, just as literature can for the creation of music.

When I write you can bet I have music of some kind going, and the majority of the time that music is instrumental in nature, whether it's Tchaikovsky or the score for Transformers (which I love, by the way). While I do occasionally listen to popular music, I have found that the lyrics and the voices distract me from my story unless it is something that really fits the scene.

I love writing to scores because they're already telling a story of their own, and I can choose to acknowledge that story or I can simply pick up on the emotions the music is trying to create in me. When I listen to the Stardust score, sometimes I feel like I have a direct line to Neil Gaiman, which not only rocks but is incredibly inspiring for me. I love Gaiman's work, so when I listen to Stardust I have a good picture of his style and feel in my head, which can influence my writing and even open me up to new paths for my own story to take.

If I'm having a hard time properly conveying the depressing nature of a scene, I can put on the Braveheart score or some Harry Gregson-Williams (direct line to C.S. Lewis, that one) or perhaps some Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, Inception, Rango...). Music allows me to tap into emotions that I may not be feeling at the time and gives me a way to properly express said feelings, and when you're writing about a kidnapping you need all the heartache you can access. For those of you writing down all of the composers and scores mentioned so far, I'll make you a list at the end.

Now, as I said, occasionally I listen to popular music while writing. Lately I've been listening to the new Avril Lavigne and Adele albums because they're really helping me get the dark and gritty edge that TSA needs right now. They're pretty raw and heart-wrenching albums, so for the most part they really fit parts of my story.

Also, my MC in TSA is a soon-to-be 13-year-old who loves Lady Gaga, so in order to fully capture her spunk and get into her head, I have to listen to what she wants to listen to. This means opening up my Gaga Pandora station, and even my Britney Spears station if need be. And this is where I must confess (see what I did there?), I have always been a Britney fan, even though she's not the best person or role model in the world; I like her music. Taryn absolutely loves Lady Gaga and Britney, and because of this I, too, became a Gaga fan.

Because you do what you must in order to make the story work, and some days that means listening to the Nutcracker Suite. Some days I really want to listen to Danny Elfman, and some days I want to put Avril Lavigne's "When You're Gone" on repeat until the screen is blurry because it's such an emotional song.

So there you have it, I listen to music while I write because, for me, there's nothing that can inspire me, move me, or connect me with my story better than a soaring horn line, a haunting cello melody, the sound of a full orchestra, or the perfect combination of instruments, vocals, and lyrics.

And for those of you wondering, I play the cello, the horn (yes, the French horn, though most of us who know better don't call it that for technical reasons), some trumpet, a bit of piano, and a minuscule amount of saxophone. Which kind of makes me sound like a bad ass, but I'm not.

Composers/Albums mentioned (and some that weren't):

Steve Jablonsky -- Transformers
Ilan Eshkeri -- Stardust
James Horner -- Braveheart
Harry Gregson-Williams -- Narnia, Shrek, Prince of Persia
Hans Zimmer -- LOADS of things, including: Gladiator, Pirates, Rango, Pearl Harbor...
Danny Elfman -- Almost every Tim Burton film. EVER. and then some: The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Wanted, Spider Man, Batman and some TV themes such as Desperate Housewives and The Simpsons
Michael Giacchino -- Does film and TV: Alias, Lost, Fringe, The Incredibles, UP, and Speed Racer
David Newman -- Serenity
Greg Edmonson -- Firefly
(Claire Legrand actually did a post on the Firefly/Serenity music here)


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Serenity! Awesome.

Amanda Olivieri said...

And here is your music post! Haha, too funny. I'll have to check out your recommendations!

Also, I just started following Kristin Cashore's blog :)

Amanda J. said...

Alex, of course!

Amanda, if you ever want to talk music, hit me up. :) I'm also on Twitter (a lot). And I can't wait for you to read GRACELING. It's fantastic.


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