Friday, March 2, 2012

Writing Music

No, not writing scores and orchestrations, I'm talking about the music that I listen to while writing, the soundtracks, as it were for various writing tasks. I've been a music nut since I was very young. Mom was into musicals (I heard my share of South Pacific, The King and I, The Sound of Music, and many more obscure musicals), Dad was into surf guitar (The Ventures, Beach Boys, that sort of thing), and, as a child in the '70s, then a teenager in the '80s, I learned to love funk and heavy metal, with a smattering of punk and pop in-between. In college I learned to appreciate classical music and trance/techno, too. Sorry, I never was a country boy, never will be. And rap, well, there is some good rap out there, but it's really difficult to find, hidden in all the c(rap).

I rarely find myself writing without headphones in my ears. This will likely result in some bizarre long-term illness when I'm old, I'm sure. I can live with that. Writing, for me, is an all-body act. It's not just my fingers on the keyboard. I usually write with a pen, standing up, to begin with. My writing desk is actually an old RCA Victor turntable cabinet, the kind with the big cornucopia sticking out from the top (it had been removed when I acquired the cabinet). I only sit to type (like now) and sometimes I can't even sit down to type. I'm not particularly hyperactive, but, for some reason, I concentrate better standing. But I digress.

More than anything, the right writing music provides atmosphere, a niche of consciousness into which I can crawl to see things from a particular character's POV. For example, in my novel Heraclix & Pomp (Agent Kris is still shopping this one around Which has now been sold to Resurrection House press), the main characters are a flesh golem (Frankenstein-like creature, though it's much more complicated than that) and a pixie (again, it's complicated). For Heraclix, I often found myself listening to downtempo jazz, jazz created by ex-death metal bands and such. Examples include Bohren & Der Club of Gore and The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble. When I needed to brood on Heraclix's thoughts, this was the music that put me in the right frame of mind to do so. And Pomp was definitely a Big Bad Voodo Daddy/Brian Setzer Orchestra girl, fun, winsome, just a touch off the wall. As I've been writing my current string of Italo and Vincenzo stories (if you can call two a string), set in Renaissance Venice, I find myself listening to Blackmore's Night more than anything else.

Now, these are examples of choosing music to meet my need to get in the right frame of mind to get into my characters' frame of mind. On the technical side, when I need to be sharp and hone my writing, I will often listen to nothing at all. I can't have my brain distracted while I'm trying to hash out grammar and sentence construction. Just can't.

Once that phase is through, then I'm ready to type my story into the computer, doing a little editing as I go.  For some reason that I can't quite fathom, techno/trance is the best typing music out there. Give me some Astral Projection or Man With No Name or Paul Oakenfold. When I am typing, I am driven, and the regular beat of this kind of music just keeps me going, making me an automatic typewriter (with a devilish little editor sitting on my shoulder, prompting me as needed). today, as I typed up "The Doppelganger's Shadow," (an Italo and Vincenzo tale), I found myself bouncing in the chair, typing to a cadence that got me through the physical act of typing *very* quickly and accurately. There's something about the almost mathematical dictum of this kind of music that mandates that I type with speed and accuracy. It can't be helped.

So if you see me at a convention, pen in hand, bobbing to the music, don't worry. I'll get to you soon enough. I go to conventions to talk with people about reading and writing and publishing, really, and to pick up a few tips on the art and labor of writing, so I'll come out of my shell before too long. But if this author's rocking, don't bother knocking!

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