In my journey as a writer, I sometimes have been led into a poem or short story through a work of art or sculpture or a piece of photography. But I can’t think of a time when a specific piece of music has inspired me to write a story or poem. Music has moved me emotionally or inspired me about life or told me a story or helped me relax. I also don’t write with music playing in the background. I seem to need quiet or “white noise.” But am I missing something?
One of the first times I remember music touching me emotionally was at a piano recital. The pianist was playing “Lotus Land” by Cyril Scott. The piece, an impressionistic work, seemed to take me out of myself to a peaceful place. http://youtu.be/P7dAhrr7Vlk .
Also, at about this time, I discovered “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy. Again, to me, impressionistic and capable of taking me to a quiet place, a regenerative place. http://youtu.be/-LXl4y6D-QI.
“Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin, defined as an experimental classical-jazz work, I discovered as a result of a high school report I had to do. To this day I find it inspirational, urging me to soar higher, find more in life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSq_nwoG43s
I also found and enjoyed music that told a story, such as “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.” A ballet, with music by Richard Rodgers and choreography by George Balanchine, it was part of the 1936 musical On Your Toes by Rodgers and Hart. We have an instrumental version with Stanley Black conducting The London Festival Orchestra. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diA5vUZJDvA.
“Street Scene” by Alfred Newman, depicts morning, afternoon, night, and dawn on the city streets. The City of Prague Philharmonic rehearsing an opening segment offers a bit of the storytelling.
Both Rodgers and Newman were able to tell a story with music, creating distinct scenes, distinct sounds, stirring distinct emotions.
To relax, I love the music of Enya. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0NoHN1TU5I
On the subject of relaxing I always enjoy the character Harry Bosch in Michael Connelly’s crime novels. What Harry listens to, especially if he’s had a hard day or is puzzling the way through a crime, is jazz. For example, he likes to listen to “Soul Eyes” as played by John Coltrane. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hdy5G94AHc. Michael Connelly likes to have jazz playing while he writes.
Which brings me to why I explored the topic of music for this post. I enjoy music as a source of inspiration, for its styles, for its ability to tell a story, and its ability to help a person relax and de-stress. I was curious about its effect on creativity and writing. Indra Sena in her post “Music to Write By” at http://www.writing-world.com/life/music.shtml suggests several ideas for writers and using music:
1. Anchor yourself to a starting song, anything that “energizes, inspires, or excites.” Play it as a signal. It’s time to write.
2. Play songs that reflect the period you are writing about.
3. Play music that puts you in the mood for the scene you are writing, such as sad, tragic, happy, or action oriented.
4. Play music that increases brain functioning such as Mozart and Vivaldi and other Baroque music of the 17th and 18th centuries. Sena states:
Baroque music is believed to optimize brain function by producing a state of calm, relaxed alertness. Lab studies have shown that it increases alpha and theta waves in the brain. Alpha waves indicate a slower, more relaxed mind. Theta waves represent both creative and meditative states in the brain.
Keeping Mozart in Mind, a book by Dr. Gordon Shaw, discusses music as a window into higher brain function. World-renowned for his “music and the brain studies,” he demonstrates how music changes the way we think, reason, and create.
Listening to music creates new neural pathways in your brain that stimulate creativity. Research from the University of California showed that music actually trains the brain for higher forms of thinking.