At the Risk of Repeating Myself – Music and Writing

Blog Post No. 530

tumblr_mx3fn3i9z01sei5ozo1_500I’ve written about music a lot on this website. Some of the earliest posts are about music. After ten years of posts, some ideas come around again (hopefully with a new perspective or at least expressed in a better way).

Music is a big part of my life and of my writing. Not only is my brother a musician (and a good one at that) but I grew up in a house (and car, and etc.) filled with music. My father played guitar and my mother played records. With two older brothers, I was constantly introduced to cool, new music, usually on CD with a little booklet with liner notes, pictures, and sometimes lyrics. Over the last few years, I’ve really gotten back into collecting physical media. Partly because I want to be able to reliably listen to (or watch) the things I like, but also because it’s neat to have those cases with liner notes and images.

This week’s post will be a little about music and writing in my life and a little about a few new albums I’ve physically purchased last year. In reverse order, the latest CD I’ve purchased is Expert in a Dying Field by The Beths.

38539d6436e304e291cdc2646ab36ee14a40a5f5-1602x1601-1I stumbled across the title track (and what a title) on a youtube rabbit hole. I couldn’t tell you what I was first looking for that led me to the video, but the title was enough for me to check it out. Within the opening verse, I was all in. I watched the video several times and before I was in bed that night (my internet rabbit holes always happen just before getting ready for bed) I had looked up the best way to get a copy of the album for myself. I have a backlog of music I want to buy, but because a CD wasn’t too expensive and was easy enough to order, it jumped the queue. Thankfully, the rest of the album is as good as the title track. It’s been a quick go-to for editing in the last several weeks.

The first thing I do when I sit down to do any writing or editing is to spend time (sometimes little, often a lot) picking out music. Some of my friends can’t work to music (though most writer friends I know do). It’s very strange when something you take as fact is different for someone else. Some of my writer friends can’t listen to music with lyrics, which is fair. Personally, I fall so deeply into my work, that, within the first couple of paragraphs the music (and the world around me) is just background tone. I do believe that the quality and style of the music has an effect on my writing, though, even if I’m not actively listening to it.

neon_indian_-_era_extrac3b1aI heard about Neon Indian from watching an Anthony Bourdain show. He was in Austin for Texas BBQ and there was a music festival going on. The show featured a few musicians, but they had an interview with the guy from Neon Indian along with some clips of a performance. While The Beths is like the kind of music I loved as a teenager in the 90s (but a bit more up-to-date) Neon Indian is the kind of electronic, synthwave music that I didn’t know I loved from my childhood in the 80s. I’m sure I’m not categorizing Neon Indian properly, but either way, I dig it. I picked up the album Era Extraña after spending a few weeks listening to the album online. A good chunk of the Invasion Novel has been edited to that CD.

Podcasts and audio books have taken over some of the time I used to spend listening to music. While out for a walk, cleaning the bathroom, or in bed trying to doze off, I usually listen to something. Sometimes (usually when I don’t have a lot of time) I’ll still listen to music while doing that stuff, but in the car, music is still king. (Though if there’s a good news show on, I often fall into that while driving). There’s nothing like a good song while behind the wheel to make you feel good (especially if traffic is making you nuts). Music has the power to change or express your mood more quickly and accurately than most anything else. Maybe that’s why it’s so helpful with writing.

roman-songs-cover-6000x6000-1My favourite band has been They Might Be Giants since the early 90s when I first heard about them (along with millions of kids) on the cartoon Tiny Toon Adventures. It was the perfect storm of discovering an exceptional band just at the time when music was becoming important to me. I’ve followed them over the years and have been rewarded with an unbelievable catalog of music. They’ve produced a new studio album nearly every two years since 1984. In the last few years (while still making great music) they’ve been releasing their old albums on vinyl and I’ve been trying to keep up with all of them. Some of them I don’t feel the need to buy as vinyl, but I still want them, like kids music and b-sides.

One of those rare albums was a solo project by one of the two members of the band where he wrote and recorded and EP in Latin. (For some reason). And it works. Catchy and strange, Roman Songs isn’t one I go to often for writing, but when I see it in my collection, I feel like I have to check it out over and over again to believe it.

cartoon-dog-listening-to-music-8eyd3bl7p4e7nnskEven if you don’t use music as a tool in your life, I’m sure that, if you appreciate music at all, you have your own cool music stories. Good music is out there to be found (just not on mainstream radio). Next time you have a sink of dishes to wash or a driveway to shovel, consider putting on an album and listening to it front to back. It’s an experience worth having. Your taste may very, but good music moves. I’m glad I have the means to keep finding and purchasing music I like and that I can use it to fuel my writing and keep me smiling. It’s a pretty cheap ticket.


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