Friday, October 19, 2007

Mood Music

Madelynne Ellis

Music depresses me (James, Whiplash)...

Least ways some times it does.

Way back in February, Alison Tyler served up a sexual soundtrack of songs that hiked her libido off the Richter scale, and well, eight months later I'm still trying to think of one track that has the same effect on me. Okay, maybe there is one, but we'll get to that later...

Anyway, this lack of a sexy soundtrack is weird, because I use music all the time when I'm writing as inspiration and to conjure moods.

For me, writing is not simply about putting words onto paper. I have to make myself part of story, become the characters, fall in love with them, feel their triumphs and loses. In short, I have to feel the same emotional highs and lows. To do that I use music, and I have a list of tracks I know are guaranteed to evoke strong emotions.

Lets start with a heart breaker! Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks. I am actually incapable of listening to this song without crying, because I associate it very strongly with loss and grief. Obviously, I don't like upsetting myself, but it is a useful tool if I want to remind myself how that feels while I'm writing.

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

Whereas if I want melancholy, I might choose this one, Stranger on the Shore - Acker Bilk.

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

Pensive, waiting for something to happen, or not yet ready to move on, and I'll probably be listening to Nine While Nine, by the Sisters of Mercy. The beat pulls me forward, while the lyrics throw up all sorts of wonderful images. In case you haven't noticed I'm also quite a visually orientated person.

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

Darker, angry, accusatory, with maybe a hint of theatre? My story Lust for Blood, in Love on the Dark Side, a nasty tale of a vampire threesome, was written while listening to (and watching) Nymphetamine Fix on endless repeat.

With some songs it's not a specific emotion I'm trying to conjure but a whole range of them, and then I'll look for something that musically mimics the tone of the story as a whole rather than at one point. The best example of this type of music is Redemption, by Gackt, which I listened to while writing Blood Angel, (in Possession), and with this piece of music it's definitely all about feelings and diffuse concepts, because really my Japanese isn't that hot!

Sometimes it's not even about a specific mood, but more of a sense of a whole person and how a certain character interacts with the world. Vaughan, Marquis of Pennerley, from A Gentleman's Wager (Feb '08) & Phantasmagoria (Mar '08) has changed over time, but if I ever want to remind myself what he's about, I listen to these two songs, which sum him up nicely for me.

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

So, my question for you, is am I the only one who uses music in this way while writing, or do you all just put on your favourite song of the moment and type away? Maybe you prefer to write in silence! What tracks evoke strong emotions for you? Let me know in the comments.

Oh, and one last thing... That track I mentioned at the beginning, you know, the one that does something for my libido, well here it is... (okay, may the images help ;-))

Madelynne Ellis xx


Alison Tyler said...

Oh, wow, I love the last one and the youtube video. I can see why it works for you, Madelynne. Thank you for the delicious post. I am so easily swayed by music, myself. My whole mood can shift if a specific song comes on the radio. I'm embarrassed by how easily I melt for the right music. Today (watch me blush) it was a live version of "I'm On Fire."

Hey little girl is your daddy home
Did he go away and leave you all alone
I got a bad desire
I'm on fire

Tell me now baby is he good to you
Can he do to you the things that I do
I can take you higher
I'm on fire


Dayle A. Dermatis said...

I have a "sexy songs" playlist on iTunes for general erotica writing, but I also tend to make playlists for each novel, including songs that evoke that novel (or the emotions in that novel) specifically.

Other times, I can't listen to music with words, so I'll switch to classical or New Age type stuff.

Like Alison, I'm easily swayed by music as well. My HS music teacher was fond of saying "Music is the language of the emotions," and it's very true. A major chord makes you happy, a minor chord makes you said...

Portia Da Costa said...

I love music. I love listening to music. But most of the time, I can't listen to it while I write because it tends to send me off on a different tangent to the one I'm supposed to be on! Or, I end up just listening to the music and not actually writing. :)

So, mostly, I write in silence, although sometimes I play songs at other times that build the mood of a book in my subconscious eg. Gimme Shelter by the Stones [esp. the guitar intro] for Gothic Heat, in particular the approach to Sedgewick Priory in a thunderstorm!

As for sexy music, I love vintage Prince... When Doves Cry and Erotic City. :)

Anonymous said...

Yes and no.

Sometimes I find a song that matches what I'm writing. There's a big set piece scene in the second werewolf book, The Silver Crown, and for that I ended up listening to that Mark Ronson cover of Stop Me over and over.

But mostly, I have the TV on.

Also, AT, I love 'I'm on Fire'. Love. It.

Ally said...

Oh wow Madelynne. You totally freaked me out with the first two songs. I relate to two different best friends I had at different times in my life. Seasons in the Sun reminds me of the pain of separating from my childhood best friend when we moved away from him.
The second, Stranger on the Shore can bring me to tears in a heart beat thinking of the best friend I ever had, Roy. He is dead now, but I'll never forget waltzing with him over and over to Aker Bilk.

I use playlists too when I write. I have a playlist called Horny Love Songs for hot scenes. Another called Feeling Nutz when my moods are manic and I write like a mad woman. Ally's Old Favs, with a mix of 70's etc, including Aker Bilk for nostalgia. My Rocky Horror is always fun and gets me going when I am bored. My Ennio Morriconi collection for when I miss my mom and I feel like becoming depressed. One I use for relaxing, one for sleep if I am having insomnia. But then there is my Recent Favs. I play that one the most, it has all of my hard rock.

I rarely watch TV, so my music is on when I crack my eyes open. I can't write without music. I get frustrated when my husband comes to sleep over on the weekends and he watches TV. Then I pull out my big ass headphones and blast them so I can drown out the annoying TV. I also listen to my playlist on my myspace, it has music from the internet I don't have on my own computer and I have hundreds.

My moods are affected by the music I play and sometimes I play music because I feel a specific mood. I can easily be swept away by a song anywhere, including a mall, you can carry on an entire conversation with me and I am so lost in the music that when it's over I just look at you and say "What did you say?" In my car I can suddenly find my self going 80km in a 50km... Oops. Music is always a major part in my writing and the rest of my life and each song has a feeling or memory attached to it. My boys are the same way, and I am so excited that I am going to go see Ozzy with them on Saturday. I died my hair, bought a leather jacket, new jeans and gonna rock with my boyz!

Great Post. Tyty.

Just Craig said...

Wonderful post, Madelynne, and close to my heart!

Music is integral to my writing. I have an assortment of songs on the PC and hundreds of CD's varying from Jazz to Blues to Prog Rock to Metal to Fusion to Latin to Classical to whatever. Like Alison, I'm easily swayed by music, and I'll often choose a tray of CD's while I'm writing to set the tone. Sometimes I choose something with a very different mood to set an undercurrent. Writing a very "punkish" story with some nice Bach in the background. Sounds weird but it's fun.

A few days ago I had a favorite mix playing on the PC and a song came on that matched exactly to the part I was writing that I folded it into the story.

I can relate to Ally's comments. Some songs just put this invisible weight on my foot. Sometimes the music just puts me in another place and I lose track of what is around me.

Of course, my mind tends to drift anyway (note to parents on report card many, many years ago: Craig daydreams too much. Note to teachers many years later: Still true.)

But I digress...

Rock on, or Jazz on, or Classical on or whatever.


Dakota Rebel said...

For me, it has to be David Bowie. His voice does obscene things to my mind and my body. I must have subconciously realized that today was the music day on lust bites, because my blog is about David Bowie today. (There are yummy pictures of him too if you want to check him out.)

I have an ipod of normal music, and I have a David Bowie ipod for writing. I put in my ear buds and close my eyes and let him take me over. I could write a novel a day if all I had to do was turn on my laptop and my ipod and sit in a dark room alone.

David has had this effect on me since I was a child, and he probably always will.


Madelynne Ellis said...

Yes Alison, I totally get the whole mood shift thing, and some stuff just sounds better on the radio, just like some tracks sound better on crackly vinyl heard through several walls. Waterloo Sunset is spring to mind here.

Dayle & Wendy, I also find the music distracting sometimes. If what I am writing is really intense, I need silence to concentrate, although on other occasions an instrumental track or a song in another language will do.

Madelynne Ellis said...

Tilly, is that you that has the TV on, or the junior werewolves?

Portia Da Costa said...

Well, I didn't actually write to it, but I listened to Purple Rain while I was doing the housework just now and it reminded me of all sorts of moods and thoughts and images... that might sneak their way into my WIP.

In most unexpected contexts...

Madelynne Ellis said...

God, Ally, how weird is that! Out of billions of songs I manage to pick two that have such profound meaning for you. I love that Terry Jacks song, but just hearing the first few beats of it is enough to set me blubbing.

Craig, it sounds as if you have some fun stuff in your collection. Mine is certainly eclectic, if a bit goth heavy in places.

I'm going to have to check out some of these tracks.

Dakota, I nearly included David Bowie, I love Life on Mars, and Andy Warhol... oh, and the rest of Hunkydory.

Monique said...

Absolutely! Loud music helps mitigate my editor! Or it seduces him. Either way, I find I can get on with writing when I have a musical affair...keeping the ears busy is key to keeping the fingers moving!

Madeline Moore said...

Oh boy what a fun and interactive post. Did it take you forever, or are you one of our computer whiz LBs?
I really had a good time getting inside your head on this post,Madelynne.

I wrote an entire screenplay, long ago, listening to one track of Patti Smith 'American Artist'...I am an American artist and I FEEL NO GUILT!

These days I write in silence. I think the rythm of music can get in the way of the rythm of my words. Also I'm a very fast typist and there are times, when I'm really flying, that typing feels like playing the piano (if I were a pianist, which I'm not). My fingers attack the keys and there's a rythm to my typing that feels like music, to me. It doesn't happen all the time by any means but there's always the possibility that it will and when it does, it's utterly fabulous. So I think the possibility of that experiene keeps me writing without music.

Like Ally, I have music I listen to when I 'want to get depressed'. Neil Young, to be exact. 'Four Strong Winds' (I'm from the prairies) always makes me cry. Leonard Cohen for wallowing, sometimes, and emerging from wallowing, at other times. And Van the Man for healing.

Thanks for this post, it was great.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Yep, sometimes it comes down to a single song. The only way I could break through the block of one scene was to play Shakespear's Sister's "Stay" over and over and over...

And not that any of us need inspiration, but Queensrÿche's "The Thin Line" is the Best. BDSM. Song. Ever.

Skin-tight leather
Provides my pleasure
Wake my fear
Surge with the pressure...
...Hand on mouth, the game goes on...


Kate Pearce said...

I can't listen to music when I write, but I love music and can usually come up with a song lyric for almost any situation (ask my kids)
I like to try new stuff, Kanye West and Gym Class Heroes at the moment courtesy of my son, but I have a soft spot for Sting and Crowded House for the male pov (Four Seasons in one day comes to mind) and of course, Alison, dear Bruce, who could sing me the telephone book and I'd be happy!

"Smiling as the shit comes down
You can tell a man from what he has to say
Everything gets turned around
And I will risk my neck again, again

You can take me where you will
Up the creek and through the mill
All the things you can't explain
Four seasons in one day

Blood dries up
Like rain, like rain
Fills my cup
Like four seasons in one day

It doesn't pay to make predictions
Sleeping on an unmade bed
Finding out wherever there is comfort there is pain
Only one step away
Like four seasons in one day"

angell said...

WOW - this I can TOTALLY relate to as I was just describing this to a friend of mine today.

I LOVE music. If it wasn't for the fact that I'm such a light sleeper, I would have it going all night.

I have a ton of playlists for every possible mood. I have one right now that is acting as my muse - every song on it just pushes my writing further.

I'm totally affected by music. Yes, certain songs invoke memories, some of which I'd rather didn't surface, but oh well, life goes on right? They happened, and they're a part of me, whether I like them or not.

I find that Adam Levine's voice REALLY does it for me when I need to get into a hormonal frenzy. I couldn't tell you why. He's not overly sexy (I mean, I wouldn't turn him down) and when I met him, he was quiet and reserved, not the rock god I fantasized about. But when he sings...oh dear GOD, help me.

Two songs GUARANTEED to whip me into a sex slave are Sisters of Mercy "Cry Little Sister" and Fluke's "Blue Monday". Holy fuck - god help anyone around when those two songs come on.

Alison, I melt for the right music too, so you're not alone. I'm On Fire is just 'gah' oh yeah. I saw him do this live three nights ago here in Toronto during sound check. SIGH.

Ally, I get frustrated when my husband comes to sleep over on the weekends, ummm, how did you get that arrangement, and think it'll work on mine? I can't get any writing done when he's around. And I have all sorts of Rocky Horror on my iPod - the stage show soundtrack, movie soundtrack, Songs from the Vaults (you haven't melted until you've heard Tim Curry sing Baby Love), Audience Participation album....even Shock Treatment. And yes, tons of fun when u need energy. (HAVE FUN AT OZZY)

Dakota - had to check your blog honey (luv the layout). And Bowie - sigh - a god. But my sex GOD image of him would have to be in Labyrinth. Even at 12 he turned me on...all that spandex (wonder if the package was real?)

I often wish soundtracks could be packaged with books. Because what I'm working on now, would be so much more powerful if readers could have the music to go with it. But I guess that's where it's up to the writers, right?

Great post.

Madelynne Ellis said...

"I often wish soundtracks could be packaged with books."

Well I can't offer that, but the link for the playlist I was listening to while writing Dark Designs is here.

Jeremy Edwards said...

and some stuff just sounds better on the radio, just like some tracks sound better on crackly vinyl heard through several walls. Waterloo Sunset is spring to mind here.

Waterloo Sunset! That's for when you want to write a Kinky scene, I assume. Anyway, I agree: Waterloo Sunset's fi-yi-yiiiiiiiiiine.

Ally said...

HaHa Angell,
I don't know wheather to call myself lucky or unlucky. I left a 17 year relationship, but alas I am still weak for the flesh! It seems to work for both of us, for now. At least now I can just tell him to FO when I get pissed and he becomes a thorn in my side. He also behaves himself now.

Janine Ashbless said...

Wow Madelynne - breaking new ground for Lust Bites with the sould clips!

I love music but can't *write* with it on because I end up listening to the words and singing along. Or dancing, which is even worse. The only exception is that sometimes I'll put on some Adiemus or something in Hindi, which doesn't have any words that carry content for me.

kristina lloyd said...

Silence. I love music but I also love silence. I write in silence and I write alone. I can't write if someone else is in the room. Heck, all that breathing they insist on doing. So I've never done the hanging out at cafes and writing thing. I am the antithesis of Trollop with a Laptop. No, really, I am.

But my books always have songs that go with them which I listen to when not writing. I take music breaks too. I don't choose the songs. They just somehow emerge and stay there for months. So Split (published in less than 3 weeks!) had Placebo's cover of Running Up That Hill, plus Crawl and Without You I'm Nothing (hey, I like Placebo). Bowie's Quicksand is Split too.

Bowie did quite well here, didn't he? Nice post, Madelynne.