16 June 2007

Writing to music

I love writing to music. Nothing is more effective for getting me in the right frame of mind than choosing a piece of music with the same atmospheric feel as what I'm trying to create. The mood of the music then flows into the mood of the writing. Some of my students like to write to modern music, but for me there's only one type of music that does it. Soundtrack music. And I guess I'm thinking about this because of the trailer on the previous post, and thinking how much I love the music already.

My husband hates soundtrack music. He says it's not real music. My kids love it, but maybe I've indoctrinated (read brainwashed) them. Favourite soundtracks to listen to are Gladiator (the original and the "more songs from") and The lord of the rings (all three of them). Along the way I've bought lots more soundtracks. Most are music only: Excalibur, Star wars (the original trilogy, but I also have The phantom menace, Capricorn One, Battlestar Galactica (from the film/original TV series), but I also have some that have singing as well: Cold mountain, Moulin Rouge, The bodyguard, Rocky (the first three soundtracks). Really, for writing though, it has to be a fantasy movie. Maybe the science fiction movies feel too "technological"? I don't know. They're neither more nor less dramatic, but the mood isn't quite right.

The other piece of music that has been inspirational is Peer Gynt -- especially "In the hall of the mountain king", which really encapsulated the feel I wanted in my novel, and inspired the series name (The oracle of the mountain king), though this of course may change if the series is published. I wanted the mad dance of that music, the franticness, the frenzy of escalating tension. I often think of this when I'm writing.

When I was teaching first year classes and sometimes in Novel 2, I would get students to write to two pieces of music. Each year I would tape different selections from my soundtracks. The first time I used this exercise was in a Short Story 1 class. I had twelve students, all of whom were writing contemporary stories. For one of the pieces I chose music from The fellowship of the ring that involved the black riders chasing Frodo to the ferry. Eleven of my twelve writers wrote about being chased by horses, yet none of them had recognised the music and only one (strangely enough) had seen the film. That really drove home to me the power of music. I had expected twelve contemporary but dark, frightening pieces, and instead I got eleven horse chases. How bizarre.

I find now that whenever I'm feeling stuck, putting on a piece of music can help me make the segue into words.

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