Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sounds of Music

Over the past few weeks, I've read several blogs about the role music plays in the writing experience for some authors. A few authors have listed the songs they were listening to when they were writing particular books. I'm struck by the astonishing variety. I confess I've been totally unfamiliar with about ninety percent of the titles listed. And that's not so unusual given my age. Popular music, after all, is very much an age appropriate genre.

There are some outstanding pieces that cross age, gender and even ethnic barriers. Few people can withstand the mournful strains of Amazing Grace or Taps. Most people are stirred by their national anthems and particularly patriotic songs, especially on national holidays. Certain hymns are frequently played at funerals.

For the most part, though, music preference is as individual as our DNA. I used to think children pretty much listened to the music their parents listened to, but obviously that's wrong. Personally, I prefer mostly instrumental music, even if the titles started out as popular songs. Some disparaging souls call this elevator music. But I find the words distracting and irritating. For me, they get in the way of the music.

My all time favorite piece of music was titled Chariots of Fire--not the short bit most people recognize from the Titles, but the long piece--twenty-five minutes long--that encompasses all the other bits and pieces from the soundtrack. At a particularly stressful time in my life I used to put the children to bed, light a couple candles, turn out the lights and just immerse myself in the music. By the time that piece was over, I was smoothed out and ready to sleep.

More recently I've discovered other pieces of music that operate on my psyche in a similar fashion. I suspect that they would not have the same effect on my friends and family. That's okay.

The wonderful thing about music is its infinite variety. There's something for everyone from the thrilling strains of Bach and Chopin to the driving beat of hip-hop. Music speaks across racial and ethnic barriers. It lifts the heart, comforts the mourning, and rouses the souls of the warriors. It's our most enduring gift from God.



  1. My husband is into Chariots of Fire when he's working. I cannot listen to music while I'm writing. Any other time, yes. The lyrics to some songs do give me ideas. I'm working on a story right now and coincidentally went to a concert where Lisa Loeb sang the lyrics to it! Weird!

  2. Whereas instrumental music drives me batty--ditto lyrics in languages I can't understand. :-) Ain't variety grand?

  3. I think my characters choose their own music because it's been vastly different from book to book.