Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Write to the music

Today I purchased a CD by one of my favorite musical artists: Patty Griffin's Downtown Church.  Patty is a folksinger, but with bits of rock and bluegrass mixed in, and I've loved her since college when I heard her song "Moses."  Since then I've bought every new album on the day it's released.  Just in case you might be in the market for some new music, Downtown Church is Patty's adaptation of several gospel classics, all of which were recorded in the basement of a Presbyterian church.  After two listens, I can promise you it will be money well spent--very beautiful interpretations of beautiful old songs.

I bring this up because I've been using music these last few weeks to inspire my writing.  So much of writing is getting into a rhythm--just sort of finding the flow so you can really start to let loose for a little while and, like I've mentioned before, find the more organic elements of your story, instead of trying to manufacture every little thing.  I know that other writers do this because often in the acknowledgments they thank Bob Dylan or The Rolling Stones, etc., saying, for example, "thank you for your music, which got me through the long, dark hours of writing this book."  And it makes sense: music is a powerful tool for doing anything that requires motivation.  I read just recently that good music is integral to a successful running routine because there are certain rhythms and beats that actually trigger a psychological response that makes you want to get up and move.  (Thus, dancing.)

As for music's role in writing, I actually think there is also an element of feeling like you've got a fellow artist looking over your shoulder as you write.  Yes, you get lost in the music and as you begin to write the melody supports your own ability to find a narrative "melody" and cadence, but it's also nice to know that you're listening to something that had to be written first.  Whether it's Mozart or Bob Dylan or Shakira (yes, sometimes she is my drug of choice, I admit it), it all had to be conceived of first, and reworked, and put back together.  And like anything else, it's comforting to know someone who's been through it before is there helping you do it for the first time.

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