16 August 2007

Seven things that inspire me: one: music

Some of my writer friends recently have blogged about seven things that inspire them, and I wanted to follow this up with an analysis of what my inspirations are for my writing, but I wanted to do so when I had some distance between reading their posts and composing my own, just because I knew there was some commonality, and I wanted time to be sure that what I was putting up was really coming from me.

My first inspiration is music. I know I've blogged about this before, so forgive me the indulgence, but I really can't look at my writing inspirations without starting here. Music is so important to me. Other friends listen to the radio while they drive, or to audio books (I should do this, I know), but for me it has to be music. My series working title "The oracle of the mountain king" is directly drawn from music -- from Grieg's "In the hall of the mountain king" from his Peer Gynt Suite. I wanted to capture the frantic frenetic build up of energy and pace in a fantasy setting. For a reader to feel the tension, to be flipping pages so fast that they would get paper-burn on their fingertips.

If I'm really stuck and facing down writer's block, music will often unblock me -- especially a good soundtrack like Gladiator and its sequel, or any of the Lord of the rings films. (I recently found a little handmade autograph book that Kaz, one of my Clarion buddies, gave me at the end of Clarion, and I had everyone sign it. My friend Cat wrote that she never wanted to hear Return of the king again -- because I played it everyday. I had meant to take up two soundtracks (I was travelling light), but when I opened the other, the case was empty. Repetition for me is a good thing, though it drives my husband bananas, particularly because he thinks there's no such thing as a good soundtrack.)

I've seen the powerful effect music has on writers through getting students to do writing exercises to music. Music helps establish a mood to write in, and helps bring out the mood in a piece. What I've done for these exercises is pick out several songs from different albums with the same feel to them. Interestingly, I had one student complain that each song felt so different they couldn't possibly get a consistent feel to their writing -- so perhaps one person's "feel" is quite different from another's.

Recently, I've found another musical source of inspiration: the Victorian State Singers. Yes, my daughter's one of them so maybe I'm biased, but choral music is new to me, and I can't tell you how much I love listening to them. The voice of youth is so pure. At their most recent performance, where they were the guest performers with a lot of local school groups, someone not attached to these singers gave them a standing ovation, so I'm not alone in my admiration. I listen to some of their songs and feel my throat close up and my eyes well. I have four short films taken on my el-cheapo digital camera, and the sound is just exquisite, even if the picture quality is pretty crappy. Blogger won't let me upload AVIs, so instead I'll post a still of them rehearsing for the schools' concert. They're not all there, not all in their black yet, nor wearing their coloured scarves. If only they would cut a CD, I'd be able to write to that -- if I could keep just the tears from my eyes.

4 comments:

ellen said...

Recently I've been walking to work listening to my MP3 player playing 'rock' tunes. I find myself mulling over whatever particular scene I'm up to, and imagining it out in 'silent mode' with whatever particular song is playing as the sound track. It's rather an amazing experience, and sometimes the strangest things happen . . .

Tracey said...

Interesting. It's kind of like the reverse side of writing to music, isn't it? Sometimes, if I'm in the car on my own and I've got the right kind of music playing, I'll interview a character while I'm driving. I'm sure other drivers think I'm nuts, but I don't care because I'm enjoying myself and working at the same time.

Sherryl said...

I can still remember when Donna was at Westbourne in the choir, and going to their concert - they sang O Fortuna and I nearly fell off my chair. We are brainwashed to think that only "famous" singers and choirs are worth listening to, but this was "just" a school choir. No wonder the Hard Knocks Choir is doing so well - there's something about a group of passionate singers that just works. Somehow their passion becomes your own. Now have you thought of having some kind of choir or singing in your novel, in a way that affects your characters?

Tracey said...

Not in this novel. Arinka likes to sing, but no-one likes to listen to him, unfortunately. Not one of his talents!