I am a musician. I have an extensive background in music training, education, and professional experience. I love music. I love what music does to me as a person, and what it is capable of doing to people as a whole.
I had originally thought of writing about music as my “M” topic, but thought, “Nah, this is a blog about myself as a writer, not the self that is a musician.” Because I sometimes categorize myself into those things in order to think and act clearly because… whooo boy, if I didn’t… you don’t know what you might be in for from the chaotic ramblings of my brain.
But, now, as I sat down to write this P post, I turned on my music, like I do every time I sit down to write. So, I’ll talk about the use of music and building playlists for my creative purposes.
I sort of stumbled into the habit of using playlists while writing fiction through online role-playing. My friends and I would share songs back and forth Out-of-Character (OOC) when we chatted.
“Oh, I heard a song that made me think of your vampire guy.”
“I have three songs that describe this storyline if you listen to them in the right order. Here they are…”
So putting on a particular CD or queueing up a series of music videos on YouTube to run in the background added a level and intensity to our games, and I felt to my writing, that was lacking if there were only silence and the clacking of the keyboard.
Music sets the mood. Once in school (college music class) we analyzed the elements of emotion in a piece of music, trying to work out how to compose something that would inspire fear, or love, or sadness. What is it about a particular grouping of notes and rhythms that evoke emotion?
I totally love that topic and I’d love to talk about it, but not right now. If you’re interested in this subject, I recommend reading Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy by Robert Jourdain. I used that book as one of my sources for my thesis on this topic. It’s excellent, if you’re a musician you will love it and if you aren’t, you can still follow it easily and understand his examples. It’s full of wonderful insight into how music affects us.
I use music in this way to tap into those emotions and then use that to fill up my paragraphs.
So, what’s on my playlists?
I have several, in different places. If I’m just looking for something beautiful to have in the background, I’ve found lots of pre-set music playlists on YouTube. Here’s one of my favorites:
For more specific stuff, I have my playlists divided by Character and Action. Character playlists are typically smaller, maybe ten or twelve tracks, that help to get me into the mood and mindset of a character. Action playlists are longer, more involved, and are my go to for combat- group, combat- one on one, fear and dread, romance, whimsy and humor, adventure, danger, sadness, etc.
I have even started with grouping up playlists for Setting. So if my characters are in one kingdom or city or another, the music I’m listening to fits.
I prefer most of the music to not have lyrics or at least only have vocalizations or be in languages I don’t know so that I don’t mix what I’m hearing with what I’m writing.
Here are some of the things I have on my various playlists:
Desert setting – Vas, Greg Ellis and Azam Ali, Bellydance Superstars, ethnic music from Morocco, Egypt, and Turkey. Soundtrack from the new movie series for Dune.
Forest Setting – David Arkenstone, Celtic Harp, Irish Whistle
Battle music – Juno Reactor, The Matrix soundtrack, Music to Scorpion King – lots of hard rock and metal there.
Scary/Danger/Horror – John Carpenter soundtracks
Music is awesome and while I -can- write without it, I don’t like to and I feel like my writing isn’t as good.
That being said, I CANNOT have music on when I’m in the revising or editing stage. I think it disengages the logical part of my brain needed to do that kind of work. So if you don’t listen to music while you write, you might be writing more clearly and logically, and if you and if you listen to music while you edit — well, you’re a better person than I am 😀