Music and Writing: Part Two

Previously, I blogged about music that helps with my writing. Specifically, I talked about how it aids concentration and immersion. Since then—as I always am—I’ve been on the hunt for more music that helps my writing happen. It’s a funny way to put it, really, as of course my writing would happen without the music. What wouldn’t happen is the level of immersion and focus that the music lends to a writing session. I know some writers do write in silence, but the thought is unimaginable for me, and for others, too.

I’ve taken to clicking to display that little “description” column in my iTunes player, and writing in little notes next to the songs in my all too vast “writing playlist”. It’s a horrible mess, is that playlist, and this is mainly as I’ve never really taken the time to sift through the mass of music I have. Why spend time sifting through music when that time could be spent writing, especially when a system of trial and error seems to work fine? Generally, unless I know which track is needed for what mood, or, unless I specifically need something emoting through the music, I bundle the whole lot of soundtrack and instrumental tracks together, and let it play. An auto-skip button on my keyboard makes the process infinitely easier than clicking Scrivener off full-screen, bringing up iTunes, and then hitting “next”. In fact, this is probably the only reason why the trial and error system works—I don’t really waste that much time, all said, when everything is a finger-flick away.

So, despite the fact that this way I end up with some tracks that either go over my head because I’m so focused on what I’m doing, because they’re so vanilla, or tracks grate against the senses so much I hit skip a nano second in, this system works pretty well for discovering useful tracks within the lists I have. Needless to say, this saves me from constantly trying to find new music, which in turn, saves time, effort and potential frustration at not finding what I want.

Film soundtracks are excellent, we’ve established that. However, some soundtracks are only so useful, in that there will be a few select songs and you wouldn’t really be able to leave the whole soundtrack playing whilst you get stuck in writing. Usually, these soundtracks lend a few tracks to the list—a few very good tracks—and whilst the rest of the soundtrack is discarded.

I find the Lord of the Rings soundtracks to be useful to a point, and find them offering little else besides. Not surprising given the sheer number of tracks available. With this in mind, I expected the Harry Potter soundtracks to be much the same: useful to a point, but worthless from a writing viewpoint thereafter.

I was wrong.

Whilst the earlier films’ soundtracks aren’t half as sophisticated as the latter instalments, the music is excellent. However, nothing quite compares to the music provided by both Deathly Hallows soundtracks. They are unswervingly excellent. Specific tracks are indispensible to my writing.

“Obliviate” is a work of art. It’s a beautifully emotive piece and the second my brother played it in our urban fantasy D&D style RPG, I knew I had to have it at the top of my list. Despite the fact that the second I hear it, I see the scene (I see Hermione casting the spell, erasing herself from her parents’ lives), this doesn’t interfere with my own imagination. This track talks to me. It will lend itself to specific scenes where the mood permits, but it’s also a track I can keep on repeat for hours and just write. A brilliant, brilliant piece of music.

Along the same vein, is “Snape to Malfoy Manor”: it’s eerie, sad, and dark—everything it needed to be. Again, I see the scene, but all the visualisation does is put good thoughts into my head. I think of Snape’s story, I think of Rowling’s absolute success with his character, and I think I want to craft something good with the words at my disposal. So, I damn well will.

I won’t mention each individual track (we’d be here a while!), but I will mention this next one, before moving on to a few non-movie pieces that I’ve been relying on lately.

“Statues” is a strong, deep and very emotive piece. It’s impossible not to see the scene, because it was just that epic, but again, the emotion attached to the movie for me (I grew up with the Harry Potter franchise, I own a wand, a Marauder’s Map copy, two house-scarves, I cosplay… generally, Potter is my thing) just helps everything along. It’s something I’m passionate about, and any kind of strong emotion will nearly always aid the craft.

Aside from the Potter music, I’ve rediscovered the usefulness of much of my Medieval Metal and Medieval Folk collections. Outside of writing, I listen to Medieval Metal from Nightwish to Epica, and from Within Temptation to Subway to Sally, but for work these aren’t the best (for a start, I’d be hard pressed to resist conducting an invisible orchestra on some of Epica’s grander numbers, and whipping out the air drums for Subway to Sally’s beats), and not entirely because of the lyrics. Basically, these songs are designed to entertain. I’m not saying the ones I’m about to mention aren’t, but they’re a different subtype of music within the same genre and they’re far more laid back, far more beautiful. Think music from Minas Tirith, versus music from Rivendell, and we’re looking at a good comparison.

Faun have been an excellent writing companion for some time now, and with songs like “Des Wassermanns Weib” and “November”, you can’t really go wrong when searching for something softer, calmer and yet still just as emotive.
The same can be said of many tracks from the too-girlishly named Angelzoom, with tracks like “The World Between” and “Infinite”, which fall at the other end of the scale from much of the Deathly Hallows music, in that they’re much lighter and airier, reminiscent of elves and fae, really.

It’s probably obvious by now that I put a lot of emphasis on music when writing; it’s essential to me. Not only does it help me focus, but during my depression (it’s been nearly eight years, all said, if I’m truly honest) I found that days filled with music were better “mood” days, than those bereft of any sound at all. I’m not a TV guy; I don’t watch it (I don’t even own a licence), I don’t even have it on as background noise, so unless there’s music, there’s silence. Silence isn’t good. So having music whilst writing helps keep my mood up, and helps me write better—a good system, really!



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