Friday, September 29, 2006

Cue the Music

This is not my awake face. In fact, the expression currently in use could be described a sleepy, squinty, and quite possibly a little pissed off (due to the fact I’m not smiling; my coffee has not kicked in), which is the result of thinking I could combine an active social life with the opening shift.

Silly Rabbit, life is for kids who don’t need eight hours of sleep to function.

Anywho, as I was walking back into my apartment last night, the church choir across the street was practicing. Sometimes—if my windows are open—when I’m lying on the couch reading, the choir will burst into song, mysteriously coinciding with some high point or revelation in the book. The first time it happened, it surprised me so much that I almost fell off the couch. I think someone was being murdered, and just as the knife raised to make the killing blow…Latin in three part harmony! Now that I’ve gotten used to it, I leave off the radio and open my windows when I want to read. Somehow whatever they’re singing fits, whether it’s my mood or the book’s.

I know that many writers have soundtracks that they listen to constantly in the process of writing a story, and it’s a fascinating process (how do you know what to pick? Do listen on repeat to one song per scene, or the whole grouping?). I often wonder if there is a reader equivalent, some sort of CD you always listen to (low and in the background) when you want to read? Does this change depending on the book or your mood? Or is silence the best (or only) option?

What hits the right reading (or writing) note for you?

17 comments:

RandomRanter said...

I have to have noise - whether it is metro noise or Starbucks noise or the television or music I am somehow unable to read unless I am ignoring something else. But I don't have a specific soundtrack or show that I use - it just has to be something I like. (Why I can't ignore something I don't like is beyond me, but there you go.)

Racy Li said...

Oh that story about your nearby church choir is great! Co-workers gave me strange looks from the muffled laughs I made.

Most of the time, I can't write with any music, but I agree with randomranter; I need noise.

But sometimes when I get stuck, I go out looking for a song that conveys that feeling. Othertimes, I'm inspired for a story by a song. One of these days, I'll finish the story I began when I first heard Evanescence's "My Immortal."

Shanna Swendson said...

When I'm reading an "event" book, one I've really looked forward to and am setting aside time specifically to read, I may find CDs that work as a soundtrack or fit the mood of the story to listen to while I read (as well as planning menus of appropriate snacks -- I've been accused of taking books on "dates"). Otherwise, it doesn't really matter what I hear or listen to. Silence, neighbor noise, traffic noise, TV, radio, etc. If I'm really into a book, it won't even cross my mind to put on music.

For writing, I usually need silence. I get sidetracked too easily by music and will just listen to the music instead of writing. The one exception is that the soundtrack to the current Battlestar Galactica TV series has some kind of weird power to put me in the zone when I'm having trouble focusing. I do get inspired by songs and will sometimes put together a soundtrack mix of songs that make me think of certain characters, moods, emotions or scenes in a book. I'll listen to it when I'm not writing to keep my mind in the story.

Anonymous said...

Silence. Absolute silence.

The one exception was when I wrote a death scene and played Mozart's Requiem, over and over. It was my protaganist's father so it was appropriate.

Lisa Hunter said...

I live in the historic section of Montreal, so I hear church bells and horse carriages (for tourists) outside my window. It's the perfect ambiance for a 19th century novel -- at least during the early evening. Later on, drunken rowdies start crooning Abba songs in the street. But that's what Super Soakers are for...

Anonymous said...

silence!

BuffySquirrel said...

I can't write in silence--the slightest little tick or rustle from the building I'm in disturbs my concentration, and the silence is like a weight on my mind. But I don't much care what's on in the background. Music, tv, radio, it all gets zoned out once I'm deep into the writing.

When I'm reading, I don't much care, either, unless the background noise is too loud or too repetitive. Repetitive noises drive me to distraction--think dripping tap, anything that beeps, or even a DVD menu looping. But I can comfortably read with the tv on or music or the radio playing. Again, once I'm focused, I'm dead to externals. Except those confounded beeps.

Saam said...

I'm very good at zoning out extraneous noise, except when hubby has his Dance/Trance/loud beat music going on :)

I have been known to carry on a conversation while reading - I just don't remember anything that was said afterwards! Used to get me in BIG trouble when I was young - Mum "but you said you'd do it", me "I don't remember that conversation"...

Kendall said...

I work (programming) fine with music, and can web surf & do e-mail with music. But I generally prefer quiet when I read. If I ever get off my butt and write, I can't imagine listening to music while writing.

Julia Buckley said...

I'm really envious of people who can work with music or the radio. It has to be silence for me or I just can't concentrate.

raine said...

I'll listen to music when I'm writing--but NO LYRICS. Too distracting.
When I'm reading--nothing. Nada.
I want to be transported into the world of that book. Music at that point would be like that penny Chris Reeve found in his pocket in "Somewhere In Time"--just jerk me back to my own reality.

Diane Chamberlain said...

I can't listen to music with lyrics when I'm writing--way too distracting (although I can write for hours at Starbucks. Go figure.) I have several soundtracks, though, that I always listen to while I write. (I need some new suggestions! These are old, but tried and true, and they work for me because of the emotional ups and downs.) Gorgeous music: Braveheart, Sommersby, The Piano, Dances with Wolves and Out of Africa.

Bernita said...

No music - I'd be following the images from the song rather than the WIP.
Besides, I need to be able to hear if my husband has collapsed on the kitchen floor.

Anonymous said...

Usually when I write I need silence, but I once wrote a short sword play based on a piece of music that I heard.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I'm another one for silence (reading and writing). I love the idea of a soundtrack for a book, to put you in the right frame of mind, but I couldn't listen while writing it (or reading it). I get too distracted by lyrics and start singing along.

lady t said...

Some books I can read while the Tv's on(that's what commericials are for,IMO!) but others need a reasonable amount of silence. A couple of times,I was reading a book and actually heard a song in my head that suited the storyline. For example,Tilly Bagshawe's Adored sounds best with "It's My Life" by No Doubt:)

Karmela Johnson said...

My most productive writing time is in the wee hours of the night. By its very nature, I have to have total silence so as not to wake up the various people and animals I share my house with. But during the day, I usually play some kind of music. But those are unproductive hours.