Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Power of Music

A few days ago, an author friend sent me an unedited story. In a note, my friend suggested to listen to a specific song while reading it. As soon as I saw the note, I knew it was precious advice. I knew that the song my friend suggested would help me understand the message that the story tried to convey.

More and more often, I tend to listen to music when I read books. I try to pick the pieces that, to me, best express - musically - the atmosphere of the book I'm reading. I listen to music while I'm writing, just as I'm doing now.
I discovered that preparing a role over a specific and carefully chosen musical background can give me better insights over the character I'm supposed to play.

Every situation, every place, every real life context has its own perfect soundtrack.
Think of the music they play in gyms. Elton John? Oh, boy, no! They pump iron in there, they need something to help them lift!
You don't put on Rap on a candlelight dinner, do you, just as blues might not be your thing when you're on cloud nine.
Would a movie arouse the same emotions and excitement without a soundtrack?  

So, when you write or act, music can indeed be the best way to find the mood you were looking for. A proper soundtrack can really be the ultimate connection between you and your characters!

Do you use music as a part of your artistic creative process?
Does music accompany your writing, your acting, your painting, or your photographing?



  1. This is so true ! I tend to use more and more music in my work. When I study a scene I wonder what music would best illustrate the atmosphere and when I found it, the scene is totally different. It's like I'd watch a movie with me in it with the music, it takes another form of reality and gives much depth to my character work.
    Now I'm thinking every time I read a play or work on a scene, I keep myself aware of what type of music could go with it.
    Music and in general any form of art besides acting is a tool to be inspired in different ways and complete your craft.

  2. Some days I sit down to write and think, "Wait... something's wrong. My music isn't on!" And then I pick the appropriate playlist and it's all wonderful. I have a composer friend who wants to put together a book soundtrack someday.

  3. This is an interesting question, Jay. I take inspiration from music, but I never listen to it when I work (write). I prefer to soak in silence to hop over the barrier of reality and stay with the characters longer.

    Many of my pieces are inspired from music pieces though. I have a story coming in NEEDLE Magazine titled ORDO AD CHAO after Mayhem's album. The song WALL OF WATER inspired me particularly, but it's whole feeling of apocalypse that I liked about it, so I tried to write the most intimate apocalyptic experience and it got picked up by a zine!

    The abstract nature of songwriting makes it very inspiring for writing concrete things such as fiction, I find. But personally, I like to let it resonate within for a little while before I start working on it.

  4. You offer good points, and a very good suggestion! Kay

  5. Mmmm... yes. Music is so important--and essential for capturing that mood. I was raised very classical, so I enjoy everything from Bach to my fav band ever: MUSE. Haha... I'm pretty versatile, but yeah, there's a song for everything. Fun post. :D

  6. Aurore,
    I agree with you.
    I remember Lola Cohen quickly mentioning something about this. Glad we're on the same page!

    That of the book soundtrack is a great idea.
    In fact, I don't really listen to music at all times, but I do most of the time though; sometimes I keep it at an almost imperceptible volume not to get too distracted. But I definitely turn it up when I feel I'm sidetracking, or losing the thread.

    So you let a piece of music play inside of you rather than using a cd player, do you?
    And hey, silence is music too! Hitchcock didn't use a soundtrack for "The Birds"!
    Congratulations on your short story being picked up by a zine!!

    I'm glad it can turn in handy for you too!

  7. Morgan,
    I enjoy classical music too. Bach and MUSE, I don't think they clash. Versatility is the key to creativity!
    Thanks for commenting, Morgan!

  8. Music has always been a big factor throughout my life. When I write I lean toward classical since I find it less distracting that songs with words. Sometimes if I'm writing I might play a Bruckner symphony, a Schubert string quartet, or some other piece repeatedly to keep me in a mood. It becomes like the soundtrack for my story.

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  9. As a French horn player and John Williams fan (Star Wars, Star Trek, Jurrassic Park to name a few), music is the ultimate soundtrack of life. I loved this post! Thanks for following back

  10. Jay, we are definitely on the same wavelength! I just finished writing my post before heading over to check out your latest post and one look at your title had me smiling. You guessed it. I also posted about how music inspires me to write. There are some soundtracks that have stirred me so much, I tear up just listening to them. Yes, music and writing go hand in hand for some authors, myself included.

  11. I've used music when writing to help me find the right mood. Music is a great tool.

  12. Oh yeah, music is so helpful for getting me into the right mood of whatever scene I'm writing. I don't necessarily care about the words - but it's so awesome when those match up too. I never thought about having a soundtrack for reading though - what a cool idea.

  13. Music plays a huge part in my creativity. Chopin, Mozart and Beethoven have always accompanied me through a good book and a warm cup of tea. Their music not only squeezes creativity from me but also inspired me to become a concert pianist and composer.

  14. Music has definitely played a BIG role in my life. I grew up listening to my mom's old records (back then LPs and 45s). I remember studying with some background music. I always played music whether I was driving, cleaning the house, taking a bubble bath, cooking, or having a romantic evening with my husband ;) Music has been and is a part of me (almost like a second skin)...unfortunately, I'm not a musician. I just appreciate what others create. As a writer, I play classical music when I'm editing my stories. Thank you for sharing this lovely post.

  15. Interesting, but this is something I can't do. I can sink into 'the zone' when writing, but music, any music immediately takes me out of it. I can't read and listen to music. Same thing. I can drink and listen to music. I can clean toilets and listen to music but my wife strongly advises me never to dance.

  16. Lee,
    I play classical too sometimes, while writing. It depends on the mood. Could be Beethoven or Mahler. I'll use anything that can put me in the right mood for what I'm writing.

    Thank you, Heather!
    I also listen to movie soundtracks. For some of my latest posts I got inspired by Ennio Morricone.

    It really seems we're on the same wavelenght! I'll go read your latest post right now!

    It is indeed, M.Pax!
    Thanks for commenting :)

    Me neither, until one day I happened to be reading "The Name of the Rose" and listening to Loreena McKennitt at the same time. That's where I discovered the trick!
    I wrote a post on my experience a few months ago. And yes, words are not necessary, as long as the music recreates the mood we're looking for!

    I've always dreamed of playing the piano.
    For now, I'll content myself with the book and the cup of tea ;)

    Hi Claudia!
    Well, studying is the only moment when music becomes distracting to me. Can't do it. But I definitely write with music, use music when I'm acting, when I'm editing, cooking, cleaning, washing...
    Thanks for your lovely comment!

    I totally understand. Each of us has different ways to focus on their work. But I'm pretty sure music inspires you too!
    Are you trying to imply that you're a worse dancer than I am?

  17. I definitely find listening to music a handy way to kick start my creativity. My only fault is that I tend to then get into the music so much I'm karaoking to it rather than concentrating on creating words. That comes after I switch off. I need to have silence to actually write! And to read. I cannot read and listen to music - I just cannot do that. Glad you enjoyed your friend's story and music.

    Take care

  18. Mike,
    I'm afraid we both need to learn to dance :)

    I also find myself karaoking to the songs sometimes. When it happens, I keep singing for a few minutes and let it all out. Then I go back to work, keeping the music at a barely perceptible volume.
    I enjoyed my friend's story indeed.
    Thanks for commenting!

    Glad we're on the same wavelenght.
    Have a great week!