Friday, December 18, 2009

Oasis, Alanis, Anne Rice, and Gilbert Grape

by Lauren

What do those four things have in common, other than being convenient markers of my adolescence?  I used to be unable to hear Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill or Oasis's (What's the Story) Morning Glory? without being transported to Anne Rice's Lousiana or the Iowa of Peter Hedges. This GalleyCat post on music to write by made me think about the ways in which I experience music and reading together.  As a person who tends to listen to the same album incessantly, not switching up till I never want to hear it ever again, there have sometimes been albums intrinsically tied to a novel I was reading--though apparently the effect lessens over time, because I now can't recall which CD above went with which book.  Every time I hear Brandi Carlile, it calls to mind a novel by a client that I devoured in a couple sittings with The Story on repeat in the background.  (I also experience this with apartments:  Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head = my senior year in Ditmas/Flatbush; John Mayer's Room for Squares is two apartments later, on the Upper East Side.  My musical taste = ever so slightly embarassing.)

I've always loved the power that music has to do this--feeling reinserted into the world of a beloved novel can sometimes be like coming home.

I recently discovered a new version of this phenomenon: my client, Michael Gavaghen had been having a bit of trouble diving back into his novel to do the edits he and I had discussed.  When he'd first worked on the novel, he'd been listening to a lot of blues music, and since then had shifted his listening habits.  In fact, he'd been working on another novel as well.  When it came time to revisit the first novel, he had trouble re-immersing himself in that world.  But as soon as he put back on the blues, he recaptured the rhythm and voice of the novel.  Handy trick!

Does anyone else experience this, either as a writer or a reader?  And does anyone actually have a strong sense memory from simply reading about music rather than hearing it?

9 comments:

  1. I use that same method of feeling like I have to listen to a certain type of music in order to write specific projects effectively. For the one I'm revising now, I find that Social Distortion, Staind, and Tom Petty are the most effective.

    It's kind of frustrating, but given the choice of suffering through Staind on repeat for twelve hours while getting it right, or listening to something I like and NOT getting it right, I have to chose the former every time!

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  2. My hubby is a singer/songwriter and one of his songs from his second CD kept playing over in over in my head for several years and something about the lyrics wouldn't let me go. It led to my recently completed YA urban fantasy and after reading it, my husband was so inspired that he wrote a different (and equally amazing) song based on my book. So it's a circular process for me and I feel surrounded by music - literally, as his band practices in our basement!

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  3. For me, writing can't exist without music. For each novel I work on I create playlists which help me create. And hearing a song, any song, can spark a scene or dialogue. Music is a necessity.

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  4. Odd, I listened to Nine Inch Nails when I read Anne Rice-- Downward Spiral-- Alanis was reserved for Voracios rereadings of Jane Eyre. I was a weird kid.

    Thanks for this. It really took me back.

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  5. I too am married to a singer/songwriter, but we have a deal. He only plays instrumental music when I'm reading or writing (usually guitar - although he's been on a ukulele kick lately and he's lucky it hasn't ended up in the woodstove)because if there are words, I can't concentrate. He rarely plays his own music unless he's getting ready for a gig, so mostly what I hear is a lot of old-time fiddle tunes on guitar, and some classical and it doesn't register much other than this very pleasant sensation in the background.

    I have written a bottom drawer novel that includes one of his songs, but I fear it won't ever see the light of day.

    My debut novel, which comes out in May is about a fiddler and my husband and a young fiddler friend of mine went into the recording studio and recorded a handful of the tunes and songs from the book. Eventually I'll have them available for download on my site.

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  6. I played Zelda on my N64 with an early Britney Spears' hit repeating on the stereo. Zelda is now forever tied to the phrase, "Hit me baby one more time!"

    More closely related to the topic, I have cd's and soundtracks made especially for my writing process, and for those certain songs I have yet to tire of them.

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  7. Got nothin' to do with music, but lots to do with memory.

    Wife and I used to live in Hawaii, (The Big Island - Kona side). Everyday she'd put on Hawaiian Tropic sun tanning lotion.

    When we left Hawaii, I bought a bottle and to this day, when I open it and pass it under my nose, I'm right back there... love, love, that experience.

    I'll have to try music writing!

    Haste yee back ;-)

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  8. Oh most definitely. My music memoir engages precisely this concept, using particular songs or concerts as a lens through which to view different parts of my life. Music is such a transporting artform, maybe more so than others, with its ability to bring us to certain memories with really, just a few notes.

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  9. I most certainly write to music ... I make playlists on my ipod and whenever I need to sink into a particular project I just put on the playlist. Helps me get in the mood/emotions for whatever I'm working on quickly.

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