Saturday, January 22, 2011

Music as a Muse


Writers out there. How influential is music as your muse, the initiator of ideas, an influence in what you write?

For me, not so much. It's often a distraction if I play music when I work, and I don't think I hear the lyrics well enough to make use of them. I love music to relax after hours though.

Readers: do you listen to music when you read? Music with lyrics. How do you separate the words on the page from the ones in the tune? I cannot read with lyrics.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good question. I usually do have the radio or a CD on as background while I'm reading but it's just on - I don't pay attention to lyrics either and if a CD is on I'll usually find I've missed whatever I wanted to hear.

The radio is probably better for news breaks and weather.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Like Phil, you can screen it out. But I can't do that. Soon, I am humming to it, dancing. It occupies my whole body too much to ignore.

Naomi Johnson said...

I can't listen to anything with lyrics or any instrumental that is too intrusive or powerful when I'm trying to write. It distracts me from my own visions.

Travis Erwin said...

I play music a lot while writing but is is most influential when the drive to write simply isn't there. A well done song with great lyrics makes me want to write.

Dave Zeltserman said...

My second published story (Next Time, Hardboiled Magazine) was inspired strongly by Cab Calloway's Kickin' the Gong Around. Any other inspiration from music must be at a deep enough subconscious level where I'm not aware of it.

Dana King said...

I used to listen while I wrote, but rarely now. Even when I did have music playing, it could never be anything with English words. (Some classical music was okay, if a chorus sand German or Latin in part of an instrumental piece.)

Now I rarely do it at all. I spend too much time reading things back to myself to hear if the dialog lays right, or if the descriptive sentence is awkward. How a word sounds in context is sometimes as important to me as whether it's the "right" word, and I can't have anything interfere with that.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, you can take the song as a muse to the PC with you, but playing it doesn't allow you to hear your own voice as well. And in reading, it doesn't allow me to hear the writer's voice as clearly,

Charles Gramlich said...

typically when I'm listening to music I'm not doing much else. I find it distracts me when I write or study so I don't listen to it then. I tend to tuen out lyrics even when I am listening to music. However, music has occassionally influenced my mood in a written piece, and sometimes has triggered a particular thought that I then explored in writing.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Oh, I have music all through me, around me and in me. I don't listen while I write because I would get way too distracted. But music is a huge part of me.

Dorte H said...

Good question.

I can´t listen to lyrics and write or work at the same time either. Years ago I used to listen to classical music on my computer, but that was because it made the most annoying noise! With a MacBook there is no need to drown the silence :D

Fortunately I can work with the TV on as I prefer writing in our living-room - someone else is always watching something - but I have noticed it is easier to ignore my husband´s sport than the girls´ American series.

George said...

I'm a linear kind of guy. If I'm reading, I don't want music distracting me. If I'm listening to music, I don't have a book in my lap. Focus is important. My kids are great multitaskers, but they didn't get that from me.

Chris said...

I find music often informs -- even inspires -- my writing, but I never, EVER listen while writing. It's more that I pick up on a phrase or mood while I'm listening, and then later try to incorporate that into what I'm working on. Just the other day, I was listening to Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs," and an idea for a story just popped into my head. But when it comes time to write, I need silence (or white noise), or I can't hear where the words are supposed to go.

Evan Lewis said...

I like music without lyrics when I'm reading a comic book or graphic novel, but not when reading prose.

I always have music going when writing. If there are lyrics, it's best if they're in a foreign language. Lyrics in English are OK if I've heard the album so many times the words no longer register.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't think I have ever listened to music without doing something else except at a concert. I probably would get a lot more out of it if I wasn't reading, washing the dishes or cooking.
I could never write with the TV on although I can read. Funny how differently are brains are wired.

Kerrie said...

I was thinking along similar lines recently - I really can't deal wiwht words in the ears and words on the page. They must channel through the same little interpretive tunnel! So my multi-tasking is limited!

Deb said...

I can read while the TV is on with no problem; but, if I'm listening to music, I can't read unless the music is instrumental--and, even then, it has to be something I'm familiar with so it fades into the background. I absolutely can't listen to music with lyrics if I'm trying to read--the sections of my brain that process verbal/written information just give up.

pattinase (abbott) said...

You have to wonder if there are any brains that can hold two sets of lyrics at the same time. Not mine.

Erik Donald France said...

Good one. I usually match the music to my mood rather than the other way around. Jazz is perfect for writing; ideas bounce around like the music, because there is a definite signature to it.

Richard R. said...

While I'm reading, nothing with lyrics, same as you. It can be jazz but usually I prefer classical. Not even smooth radio like "The Wave" (smooth jazz and soft vocals) works, I find myself listening instead of reading, though my eyes continue to scan the page and then I realize I've gone most of a page and have no idea what was there.

As a muse? No, quiet is best, though I'm not a writer, other than some essays and blog posts I find the more I need to form my ideas into words, the less distraction I tolerate.

I'm with you, except I can't read with the TV on, Charles and George on this one,.

Al Tucher said...

I do most of my writing at the local B&N, which means that I don't get a choice. This may sound strange, but the more annoying the music is, the better I like having it on when I write. Tuning distractions out seems to helps me concentrate.

Was it Hart Crane who played a recording of Ravel's Bolero over and over when he was writing? Maybe did it for the same reason.

Barbara Martin said...

I like classical music when I write. Sometimes I'm able to write with no background noise, but music essnetially assists quite well. As for your photo, I will say that often I get an inspriation that comes from the ethers...so there must be an angel close by prompting with a new word or phrase or even an explanation of something I need for my manuscript: such as a description of swords or where to look for something on the internet..

Cap'n Bob said...

I don't have music on when I write. Or TV or any other distractions. I'm not one of these people that fills the house with music all the time, either. I'd never get anything done because I get caught up in the music and don't do anything else while it's playing.

Todd Mason said...

I can't listen to music while I write, and can't even listen to music while working my job...the music takes over.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It does. It must engage more of our senses than one.

Todd Mason said...

It engages more than one brain-function, I'm sure...I have a friend who resisted music for a while becasue it was too close to her experience of religious rapture, so she didn't want that latter experience in any way challenged or "compromised."

FWIW, I commented on your next post before it disappeared.

Dan Fleming said...

Music is absolutely a muse for me. Often a certain line will spark a story and off I go. Before I know it I'm constructing soundtracks for my tale.