Words and music

August 12, 2008 at 1:23 pm (Inspiration, writing) (, , )

As I was going through my RSS feeds today, I found two posts that address writing and music. The first, at FWJ, was an icebreaker question; the original poster, whose identity is still a secret, said that music was a distraction when trying to write. Another commenter agreed, and so did I. Then I wandered over to the Aldersgate Cycle, where Natania made a post about music and worldbuilding. She said something that helped me to understand why I can’t write while listening to an existing song (although her point, I think, is pretty much the opposite of mine):

Every book has its own song. You can’t always hear it, but it’s there. Sure, it isn’t the kind of song that you can play on your iPod, but any story has its own melodies and harmonies, moments of dissonance, and at last, resolve.

When I listen to music, it tends to take over my brain. The images that flit through my mind are tied to the tunes and words of the song’s artist. Anything I imagine belongs to the world that artist created, and to the story they’ve already told. I think it would be false to claim that nothing I’ve ever written has been inspired by a song, but the inspirations, I think, are filed away somewhere and detached from their original context. If I listen to a song while I’m actively trying to write, I feel that what I’m telling is the song’s story and not my own. The worlds I create are not devoid of music. It’s just that their music is theirs alone.

I think some of this might be related to the fact that I feel very passionate about music and like to give myself over to it, both as a loss of self and as a way to explore my emotions. I’ve played the baritone, the flute, and the violin, and the act of playing was always somehow a way to let go of my usual thoughts, which almost always occur as words. I enjoy listening to music when I draw, because it’s easier for me to translate the sounds to images, and I don’t break my reverie by trying to find names for ideas.

I’m still not sure I’ve managed to put my finger on why I can’t write to music, but I think I’m starting to get there, anyway.


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