Sunday, January 17, 2010

Music Monday: Music and Writing

I'm a music whore.

There, I said it.

As a very little kid one of my prized possessions was a plastic record player. After a few years went by it was a small, purple portable radio with a cassette player, which usually held either a Michael Jackson cassette or Snoopy's Christmas.

I got my first stereo system, complete with a CD player, when I was 11. At the time I think I was listening to Lari White and Mariah Carey, with a bit of Vanessa Williams and The Eagles thrown in. All music reminiscent of my parents' tastes.

As time progressed, my musical tastes grew and technology, quite obviously, improved. (Though I side with the people who say there's a warmth in the sound quality of a vinyl that you just can't get with digital.)

I tested the waters, developed my own aesthetic tastes in music, and tried various sounds and artists on for size, genres varying from rap to heavy metal, folk to synth-pop. I developed a pretty eclectic taste, that I largely tried to keep hidden during the last few years of grade school; certain music just wasn't in .

But, eventually I got rid of the juvenile need for peer approval about my auditory tastes, embraced my likes wholeheartedly, and today I have in my music library everything from Selena to David Bowie, Death Cab for Cutie to The Dresden Dolls, Loreena McKennitt to X-Japan, The Judds to Emilie Autumn, Opera to Swamp Rock.

You get the picture.

And music, over the years, has become more than just something to listen to.

It's a back drop for my life and a back drop for my writing.

I think the first piece of music that I ever wrote fiction to--a bad piece of fan fiction, I admit--was Loreena McKennitt's "Samhain Night". Her beautiful lyrics and haunting vocals seemed a perfect soundtrack for a story about moving between worlds.

After that, it became more common for me to set a piece of fiction to music or for the music to act as a springboard for a story. My headphones or stereo speakers became a regular compatriot in my writing time and some of my favorite pieces have been developed because of a certain song. (Bauhaus's "Hollow Hills" comes to mind; I have a particularly creepy, Gothic skeleton of a short story with a setting inspired by the lyrics.)

These days, I listen thoroughly to the music in my library, chasing story ideas throughout the lyrics or the melody; and I'm always on the look out for new and inspiring sounds.

That I can also use music to block out the sounds of the world around me--from colleagues to pets to significant others--while I'm writing, is a nice side benefit.

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