In the key of music

So, it occurs to me to talk a bit about music.  Music and writing, specifically my writing, specifically what’s going up here…and thus why, if you’re reading this, you might give a damn.

I’ve always written to music.  It’s near impossible for me to write to silence.  It’s like I need some undercurrent of auditory and emotional motion to be able to focus on what I need to do…a sailor missing the rocking when ashore.

I wrote my novel listening to two albums, each one one side of a cassette, on repeat until I could barely make them out through all the fluttering…Alice in Chains Jar of Flies and Jane’s Addiction Nothing’s Shocking.  Should tell you the kind of mindset I was in at the time.

For a while, when I was working on my short stories, the ones collected in The Messy Divorce of Faith and Belief (can I remind you to click the tab at the top and follow the links to buy it?  MY DAUGHTER IS STARING AT ME RIGHT NOW WITH HER BIG EYES AND SHE NEEDS TO GO TO DISNEYLAND FOR HER BIRTHDAY AND THE ONLY THING STOPPING THAT FROM HAPPENING IS THE ROYALTY I’D SEE FROM JUST ONE OF YOU BASTARDS BUYING A COPY OF THE COLLECTION, SO GET TO IT DAMNIT!)

…where was I?  Oh yeah.  The album I listened to while writing most of those stories was R.E.M. Green.  Over and over and over again.

And honestly, it’s not like I really like those albums.  I don’t dislike them, but they wouldn’t even come up in a discussion of my all-time favorites.  In fact, if I like a bit of music too much, I can’t write to it.  It distracts me…I want to listen, instead of write.

What I’m looking for—what those pieces provided in those particular times—was a key, a mantra to help me slip past conscious over-thought and get close enough to the keyhole of imagination to help me—if not unlock the door fully—then slowly parse out its secrets, one at a time.

I have to like it, but not too much…it has to be distinct, but not stand out too much.

All of this is to say, that was then, this is now, and things have changed.

I didn’t realize until I started work on my latest piece (should be incoming in a day or two, certainly by the weekend) that part of this writing resurrection of mine is due to music.  And not like it used to be, it’s no longer about music that can just sit in the background and give me lower-arch support while I sit here working on other things.

To date, each piece I’ve written on is dependent upon a specific song.  It’s not supposed to be the story of the song…though I’d be a fool to suggest that the themes aren’t at least partially related.

What’s really happening is that each song is serving the role of a spotlight, and at some unexpected point, all of a sudden, a possible moment will jump out at me, perfectly framed and highlighted.  The resulting work may travel far and wide from that jumping-off point, but without it, I’m just sort of treading water.

So, having realized this, I thought I’d share with you the songs that each of the pieces you’ve seen (and haven’t seen) was born from.  Some will be obvious, some won’t…okay, there’s only four of them, there’s not a whole lot of mystery here, not yet, but work with me.  Jeez.

(FYI:  I don’t know how to embed those mini music players you find on other sites, so you’ll have to make due with links to other sites.)


The Finish Line – Deep Deep Sleep

I’ve posted an excerpt from this one, and have only held off from posting the full thing because it’s in active submission with a literary magazine.  Should they pass, you’ll get it here in full the next day; should they accept it…that’s the end of this site, I’ll be too busy with hookers and coke to post.

And, so, fittingly, the link here goes to an excerpt of the song I was listening to when the damn broke and I finally opened up MS Word again for the first time in nine years…there are a hundred and one reasons why this is particularly special to me…and maybe that’s why I’m okay leaving them all unexplained, and giving you just a brief glimpse of both story and song.  For now.

Two Deserts Returned

Hard Sun – Eddie Vedder

So, while this story was, from it’s initial conception, an attempt to revisit one of the first stories I ever wrote, a sort of system check, seeing if all systems really were go, it morphed a bit when I heard this song, and took on its own identity.  It’s from Sean Penn’s movie Into the Wild, which I really love…I don’t like the main character…well, I don’t like him now, there’s a 18 year-old version of me somewhere out there who probably idolizes him (though that’s another post entirely)…but you don’t have to like him to enjoy the movie…and you don’t have to like either of them to like this song.

Broken Liquid Smoke

Volcano – Damien Rice

So, I was all hot and bothered to write a particular story, and got about halfway through it, and then this song came on via shuffle, and it all changed.  I think I already noted, things have changed, and having just background music doesn’t do it for me now…this song was the key, and shaped what came after.

I think I’d still like to go back and write the original story I was aiming for…but for now, I like the story I have pretty good fine, and this song is what brought it out of me.

Love Story

Legions (War) – Zoe Keating

You haven’t seen this story yet…I’m still working on it…but this song was the key into it.  Tension, and the looming possibility of failure.  That’s where it’s heading, I think.  I’ll let you know when it’s done.

Okay, maybe a preview for you, since you’ve read this far…

Small words escape static.  Eyes closed in shadow.  Control shakes and weeps.  And pain, a physical thing, he stands there untouched and is split, torque tearing him.  Fingers, grooves and drawn blood, wounds to keep the ache at bay.  His foot, tick, tock, ten and two and ten again, back and forth, timing down an end.

But that’s all you get for now.


One response to “In the key of music

  1. Zoe makes me stupid happy.

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