Thursday, April 5, 2012

Music to Write By?

Back in my green salad ranting and raving poetry and short story days I wrote profusely
The Four Tops, James Brown, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Janis Joplin, Phoebe Snow, Phyllis Hyman, Michael White, Pharoah Sanders, Don Ellis, Beethoven, Hetor Villalobo, Stan Getz, Dave Brubeck, The Iron Butterfly and George Gershwin serenaded me.
They didn't do it all at once, of course. From midnight to four a.m. -- after my evening nap and before I went to work at 8 a.m. as a newspaper reporter back in Des Moines, Iowa -- their music swayed me and their lyrics stimulated me. While I wrote The Secret of Gumbo Grove in South Carolina, I was aided by The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, Michael jackson, Whitney Houston, Tina Marie, the Righteous Brothers, and especially Christopher Cross ("Sailing, take me away ..."). I listened to them either on the radio (before CDs) or on their 33 1/3 vinyl records. I still have most of their albums, too.
When I wrote African American Musicians in North Carolina in the late 1990s I swooned to the music and/or lives of Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Ma Rainey, Duke Ellington, Shirley Caesar, Millie-Christine McKoy, Queen Latifah, Tupac Shakur, Eubie Blake, Anita Baker, and other greats. By listening to their music I was able to connect to their personalities, I guess.
And now what do I listen to? Well, I watch television: Dr. Phil, the Braxon Family Values, Survivor, Dancing to the Stars, Golden Girls and Frazier (still!), South Park, the Weather Channel, Animal Planet and the History Channel, Joyce Meyers, Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen. As I write this piece I'm watching Entertainment Tonight.
I've no excuse for my media proclivities (other than NOT watching Fox News). Everything evolves. Just as long as I can keep writing.
What about you and our favorites? Or is silence your favorite partner?


  1. Each of my novels has had a different soundtrack, though Joni Mitchell seems to be part of all of them. Right now I'm listening to a lot of Kathleen Edwards, a Canadian, but only when revising. I can no longer have any sort of music on when I'm wrestling with new stuff.

    And no way could I juggle writing television, Eleanora. I'm not nearly that mentally agile anymore, though I was watching Law and Order SUV the other day and was agile enough to recognize that a certain forensic detail might be useful for my WIP.

  2. We share similar playlists, Eleanora! I can't listen to anything while I write or revise. My dog can't even stay in the room anymore (her snoring is distracting). Dead silence for this gal. Great post!

    Boy do I miss SVU, Marsha!

  3. Same here, Mel. Shotgun earmuffs and silence for this guy.

  4. I used to have albums I'd listen to when I was writing, like Madonna's Ray of Light for the winter raccoon novel (her song Frozen actually seemed to kick-start that one) and Calling all Stations by Genesis for a novel based on Dante's Vita Nuova. (I think Dante was spending more time ogling his "screen ladies" than pining away for Beatrice, if you ask me.) Also "River of Tears" by Eric Clapton for one novel. Oh, and caveat -- I can't listen to this music outside the novels I'm working on, because that diffuses their magic.

    Haven't used playlists lately, tho. Nothing seems right for my current WIP, though I'd listen to a few songs off "Tin Lily" by Jeff Black before I'd write. I'm not sure what's going on with that.

    Love the Four Tops, btw.

  5. Melinda, you have excellent musical taste. I had an Eric Clapton favorite or two, but I don't remember what they were.
    I've been trying to recall what I watched or listened to while I wrote Celeste's Harlem Renaissance. I think I was listening to gospel on the radio, and reading computer magazines. Both offered an escape from the hardcore 1921 research about Raleigh and Harlem.

  6. I love blues but have not used them much in my writing playlists. Probably because my head starts bouncing in time to the music, which would make it hard to write. (Have you heard "Riding With the King" with B.B. and Clapton? LOVE.)

    Gospel's great but Kirk Franklin et al make me start dancing around ... also bad for writing. :D

    I seem to be using "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls" and Liszt's "Liebestraum" to help me write my 1916 story, so maybe the playlist might be coming back into actual play this time around, who knows?