Writing and Music

Many readers have asked me if I listen to music when I write. The answer is yes and no. Music is an incredibly powerful force – one that has the potential to flavor, shape, and even dictate mood and creative output. It’s no accident that Frank Herbert’s God Emperor outlawed music as a means of keeping populations docile. Even a simple drum beat can inspire and kindle dormant feelings.

With this in mind, I try to use music to complement what I’m doing. When I’m brainstorming a particular scene I’ll listen to music with vocals, but when I’m really writing I try to limit my music selections to instrumental only (Mum’s voice in my head is quite enough!). If I’m stuck on a scene, I may well turn off the headphones/music and eliminate any and all distractions in the hopes of pushing through.

While I try to mix things up and would say that every book has its own playlist, there are some old favorites that seem to make their way into my writing no matter what. Here are a few in the hopes that they might inspire you on your own projects….

Tchaikovsky – “The Arabian Dance” (a hypnotic, magical melody)
Trevor Jones – “The Kiss” from the Last of the Mohicans Soundtrack (simple/powerful)
Johannes Bach – Toccata en Fugue (the most powerful, primal bit of classical music I’ve heard)
Luigi Bocchernii – “La Musica Notturna Delle Strade di Madrid no. 6, op. 30” (if you’ve seen Master and Commander, this is the wonderful piece that Aubrey and Maturin play during film’s closing scene)
Led Zeppelin – “Kashmir” (probably my favorite rock song of all time – never fails) “When the Levee Breaks” “Going to California” “Good Times Bad Times” “No Quarter” and “The Rain Song” (which has possibly the greatest climax of any song ever)
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (the entire album on repeat – great for late night writing!)
Aerosmith – “The Movie” (great instrumental tune – no Steven Tyler at all)
American Blues and Folk – various artists. I love me some old, scratchy American blues & folk
Alice in Chains – “Brother” (from their Unplugged album)
The Beatles – “Blackbird” “Norwegian Wood” “In My Life”
Basil Poledouris – “Battle of the Mounds” “Theology/Civilization”

I could add to this list all night, but this gives you an idea – a mix of old and new, instrumental and vocals depending on the task at hand. If some are unfamiliar to you, give them a listen and expand your horizons!