Elaina James, writer and member of an online group, Book Connectors, posted about her song-writing series on Mslexia and, therefore, got me thinking on the mutually inspiring relationship that music and writing have.
So, how does music influence writing? Well, there’s the obvious writing about the music and the people that make it. The hit Amazon series ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ was inspired by a memoir of the same name by Blair Tindall (its full title, Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, drugs and classical music, tells you everything you need to know about content). In this particular case, oboist Blair Tindall was following the oft cited creative writing mantra of ‘write what you know’.
There’s also writing about listening to things for the first time. Matt Haig’s The Humans, a novel about an alien that comes to earth with a mission to destroy evidence, does this brilliantly. There is an entire scene where the reader is led through different music genres and the feelings that they inspire based on tempo and volume. It makes you appreciate the beauty of all music from a different angle to that taken by most writing, because it is not describing listening to a piece for a first time but to music for the first time, without the preconceptions and prejudices that often infuse our thoughts on music.
Of course, listening to something for the first time is not the only way to listen. Sometimes listening to something familiar and comforting infuses your senses and allows you to express yourself in ways you wouldn’t otherwise. There is a scene in my debut novel, Lost in Static, where the protagonists find themselves in a club and the music is both peripheral (that is, background noise – pardon the pun) and central (the songs reflect the actions of the characters) to the scene.
Then there’s the art of listening, and not necessarily to music. Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey, an exquisitely written memoir of life with a light-aversion illness (you can read my review here) brings the sounds and whispers and silences to a crescendo through the depths of the darkness that surrounds her. And that, ultimately, is the beauty of music: its ability to inspire, to remind, to affect, to excite.
Try it. Close your eyes and listen to the rhythms and beats that surround you. Hear them, and appreciate them, before weaving them into your writing.