Music,  Reading,  Writing

Musical inspiration

What do you listen to when you write or read? Or do you need dead silence? Do you have recordings you associate with particular books? I like to have music to write too, but I find it distracting when I read, although I was raised in a house where all the major activities took place in one room, and I learned to either block out or blend in the music.

I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you. I’ve blogged before about how fond I am of opera, and I find the human voice very…inspiring, particularly when it comes in the form of Thomas Hampson, who is tall (6′ 4″) and unbelievably good looking with great blue eyes. And, oh yes, he can sing too, everything from Wagner to lieder to Annie Get Your Gun. (Pause to wipe off drool.)

This next one is a crossover album that actually works–mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter with Elvis Costello. Now I think Elvis Costello is sort of weird and I don’t much like his singing voice, but this collaboration was his idea and I thank him for it every time I listen to it (which is very frequently. This and an Ella Fitzgerald album were the greatest hits of Dedication). She sounds like an opera singer only in a good sort of way–great breath control, and the occasional amazing high note that comes effortlessly out of nowhere. Just gorgeous.

I don’t think this is the Steeleye Span album I have in mind (note to daughter: please return my Steeleye Span!)–I haven’t seen it in so long I can’t remember which one I own. A bit of pure nostalgia here–SS was one of the folk-rock bands around in the late 60s/early 70s. I didn’t realize how skilled they were until I came across their lyrics and realized what a genius their vocalist Maddy Prior was with the words and phrasing.

And, Rachmaninov to die for. Krystian Zimerman (sorta cute in a tortured artist way) is my favorite pianist and this is my greatest hit of the moment. I’m writing an erotic historical, and alternate between this and the Messiah as inspiration, something I can’t explain.

Tell us about your favorite background (or otherwise) music!

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16 years ago

I need silence when I read — my tv is still on, but muted. That way I can see the words just in or breaking news pass by on CNN.

However, I was able to tune out the crowd when taking the bus to college. Maybe there because I had to, home I don’t have to since I can shut it off. Haven’t a clue. LOL


16 years ago

I need absolute peace and quiet when I read or write too i.e. to be able to savour whatever I’m reading or to concentrate on whatever I’m writing…I don’t mind the constant, whirring noise of a fan for instance. I like the sound of the wind in the trees, and rain (even that of a storm punctuated by rolling thunder) :-).

Dead silence is something that I have experienced on rare occasions, and it can actually be somewhat overwhelming (deafeningly-quiet as I put it)…

Elena Greene
16 years ago

I find that background music helps to tune out harsher sounds like cars or dogs barking. It also helps to set a mood when the tone of the music matches what I’m trying to write.

It has to be instrumental, though. It can be anything from baroque to impressionist, but if there are words they distract me from what I’m reading or writing. I love vocal music, but because I really pay attention to lyrics I prefer to listen to it when driving the car, house cleaning, gardening, that sort of thing.

Elena, who gets into sensory overload far too easily

Megan Frampton
16 years ago

I don’t listen to music when I write, but I can write while my son is watching some kids’ show on TV.

Oh, and Elvis Costello’s latest, with Allen Toussaint, is a really great record. It comes out in a few weeks, I think (husband interviewed EC for O, The Oprah Mag, so we got it early).

Pam Rosenthal
16 years ago

The afternoon I wrote the final romantic chapter of SAFE WORD, my husband DJ’ed for me — Swan Lake, La Boheme, the Barber violin concerto, all the swooniest stuff we had in the house. It was very sweet. But mostly I screen out what I hear.

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