That Singular Sound: Musical Inspiration

“When I listen to her play, I feel like I am closer to that singular, ideal sound.” – La Corda d’Oro

Music tells a story. Even without lyrics, good music will make an impression on me, leaving behind a mental picture, scene or emotion. I listen to some music because I like the voice of the singer, or it’s fun to sing along with. But there are songs and albums I listen to repeatedly not just because I like it, but because the scene or emotion builds builds a story in my head.

I’ve mentioned before that I usually listen to music while I write. Oftentimes it’s something I’m really familiar with, so that I can tune it out while I’m writing, but the room isn’t silent. However, when I’m trying to elicit a particular emotion in my scene, or the pacing isn’t working out the way I want it, I’ll listen to a particular song or album that calls up the emotion or picture I’m trying to write. I have playlists of songs that are earmarked for certain situations within my current manuscript. When developing characters, one of the first things I do is run though my music library, listening for a song that reflects that character’s personality or situation to me. Sometimes I don’t find one right away, but the search usually gives me inspiration of some kind. I’ve also had characters come into being because of the way a song struck me. I have several playlists dedicated to characters’ “theme songs.”

The music you listen obviously reflects your interests, and it also reflects what is influencing you when you write. When I was first writing in a serious way (ah, the memories!), I was avidly listening to artists like Enya and Sarah Brightman. Looking back on those first stories (most of them incomplete), I can tell the influence of the music in the way the story flows, and in some of the characteristics of the characters. When writing Universe of the Soul, I deliberately listened to music with a more futuristic tone (to my ears, anyway) such as scifi soundtracks and action soundtracks with a military beat. As I write the sequel, I find myself including music with a fast, action-oriented tempo in my attempts to improve my action-sequence pacing. There are a lot of songs that will really get my heart racing and my mind wheeling with motion and feelings that I want to get on paper.

I’m not very adventurous when it comes finding new music. That’s where my friends come in! Lucky for me, I have a friend who’s heavily into music, and she is constantly coming around with new artists and new albums. My brother is also a source of new music. I suppose I could say that they are my muses, who bring me fresh ideas!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. wovenstrands
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 23:54:14

    I donno how this might sound but I love listening to Taylor swifts new album “speak now” and Maroon 5’s new album “Hands all over” they are similar but opposite in different ways but they do ignite my writing. They are both about relationships but one is filled with innocence and the other with passionate fire ;D
    Exactly what I like to write 🙂 check them out. You never know what inspiration they might bring you 🙂


  2. Jennifer Mandelas
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 23:11:05

    Thanks! I love getting tips!


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