I Hear Music

Some writers create in silence.  Not me.  Most of the time, when I’m at my computer, I have a CD playing in the background.  It keeps me flowing and helps me focus.  Sometimes the right music can enhance a mood or heighten the emotion in a scene—especially if it’s a love scene.

When it comes to music, I enjoy everything from rock & roll to Rachmaninoff.  A peek at my CD collection would leave you shaking your head.  I have a lot of ethnic music, especially African and Middle Eastern.  These I can’t play when I’m writing because they make me want to get up and dance.  But they make great energizers when I need to clean the house.

Show tunes are great energizers, too.  My favorites are “Chicago” and “Man of La Mancha.”  But trying to write with words going on makes me crazy, so I save those for car music.  My other car music includes The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Firewater, a new artist my daughter turned me onto.  I also have Edith Piaf and Billie Holladay and have resolved to buy some Country Western albums just to balance things out.

My classical music collection works nicely for writing—soothing music like classical guitar is nice when I can’t sit still.  But my favorite writing music is movie sound tracks.  I tend to pick a sound track that fits my story and play it over and over and over (hey, I live alone, I can do this).  When I wrote my African book, MACKENNA’S PROMISE, I did the whole thing to the score from “Out of Africa.”

There are more Western sound tracks on my shelf than anything else.  My favorite movie composer is Ennio Morricone.  He wrote all those catchy tunes from the Clint Eastwood westerns like “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “A Fistful of Dollars.”  Remember those?  You would if you heard them.  They’re a lot of fun, but Morricone wrote other sound tracks that are just breathtaking.  The one from “Once Upon a Time in the West” almost brings tears to my eyes.  I used another of his scores, “Once Upon a Time in America”, which has a more modern sound, to write my early 1900s book, ON THE WINGS OF LOVE.

How about you?  Those of you who write, does music help or distract you?  What works best?  And all of you, what, if anything, is playing in the background of your lives?  


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48 thoughts on “I Hear Music”

  1. Good morning everybody! Just came in from replanting a tree in my front yard. I’ll be in and out today but really looking forward to hearing about the music you hear. Have a great Thursday.

  2. Hi Elizabeth–You have very ecclectic music tastes. I’m the same 🙂 When I write I can’t have any music on with lyrics. My brain keys into the lyrics and I can’t get anything on paper. I find that jazz actually works best for me writing. That or total silence.

  3. Oh wow…music works for me when I’m writing. My work station in planted in the living room, so there’s always the television or the kids and hubby there for distraction. I put on my headphones and enter a different world, though for me, depending on what I’m writing, lyrics don’t really cause me a problem.

    I rip songs that fit my story to the computer and then make a playlist just for what I’m writing.

    I listened to a lot of country when writing my last one because my actress was falling for an ex-rodeo rider. This time though, my characters seemed to request soft stuff, heart-rending love songs..

    Right now a few of those are-
    Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis, Realize by Colbie Caillat, No One by Alicia Keys, Island and No More Running Away by The Ben Taylor Band(James Taylor’s son’s band- he sounds SO much like his father and I love the cd I have), a lot of the sexy slower songs by Robin Thicke and Sara Bareilles, most especially this song called “One Sweet Love.” It’s sort of the anthem of my current WIP.

    In my life I listen to a lot of country, rock, pop, etc, though the past few days while doing dishes or cooking I’ve been listening to a lot of “oldies.”

    Wouldn’t It Be Nice, God Only Knows, Don’t Worry Baby, Who Put the Bomp(In the Bomp Ba Bomp), My Boy Lollipop, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Band of Gold, Fill Me Up Buttercup, Sweepea, etc.

    I love music, so it’s almost a constant in all that I do.

  4. Elizabeth, sometimes I love music, too. My current favorite is a CD of Gregorian chants. I can’t have lyrics because then I’ll sing along and get distracted from my writing! But the chants are mellow and soothing. Works for me.

    I’m really intrigued with your TGTBTU music. Looks awesome. I’m off to Amazon to check it out!

  5. There’s almost always noise going on in the background of my life. Music, tv, the aquarium (never underestimate the noise fish can make when they decide to move rocks) Sometimes it’s the quiet that ‘gets’ me. 🙂

    And I’m very ecclectic too. Classical to Celtic to drumming to cello rock. Words, no words…doesn’t really matter. Folks probably get tired of hearing this, but I’m proud that I’ve written a successful love scene with Wierd Al Yankovic playing in the background. Uh, my background, not theirs. 😉

    For most of my books, I can tell you what song or type of music was/is the inspiration. And that’s what I listen to most during each writing process.

  6. I love jazz, too, Jeannie. But for me it only works if I’m doing something from the early 1900s on forward. Then it’s perfect.

    And your song list sounds yummy, Taryn. Even the titles suggest great stories. Wow, I am in awe of anyone who can write in the middle of a busy room. When I had family at home I used to get up at 4 a.m. for some quiet writing time.

  7. I’ve attempted and failed to get up that early Elizabeth! My brain says “Get up! Time’s a wastin” but my body refuses and rejects the idea completely. I’ve also contemplated staying up late, but so far I’ve yet to do it. When hubby heads to bed, I do too. I should be making use of summer vacation to stay up later working on it, but after a day full of fussing kids and noise, I’m wore out! LOL

  8. Hope you like the music, Pam. It sounds SO Western, it’s hard to believe the guy who wrote it is Italian.

    And Weird Al Yankovic, Lizzie? Good grief! Maybe I’ll try that next time I get stuck on a love scene (or maybe I’ll go for The Village People). Glad to hear from somebody whose tastes are as eclectic as mine. My kids talk about “Mom’s weird music…”

  9. Hi Elizabeth, great post! I don’t listen to a lot of music while I write because the words drive me crazy, like you say. Some of the CDs that work for me are opera, especially Andrea Bocelli, since he sings in Italian and I can’t understand him.

    I’m going to look for the Western CDs you mention! If they’re just orchestral, I can imagine they’d be great to enhance the energy of the writing.

  10. I have very eclectic taste in music too. I can go from Ray Price to Nickleback to Dean Martin to Joel Sonnier in a day. You never know what you’ll hear coming out of the speakers of my squad car (though it’s usually the Twins baseball game lately). I write to lots of different kinds of music when I write.

    I do have one little nitpick, Elizabeth, it’s not Country Western-that’s two different genres of music. Yes, they used that moniker alot in the 40s and 50s but that was also a time when you did hear more Western and Western swing on the radio and at shows than you do now. Bob Wills is Western Swing, Sons of the Pioneers is Western, Hank Snow is Country. I have picked up three cds lately that have music from Western movies and I love them. It’s funny some of the actors they had sing in movies like Lee Marvin. They’re called Wandrin’ Star; My Rifle, My Pony, and Me; and From Alamo to El Dorado, and I thouroughly enjoy them.

  11. I love your music choices, Elizabeth. A lot of them are faves of mine too. I mostly write in quiet but occasionally do play a wonderful CD of “spa” music I once got a massage to, and Andrea Boccelli also. Oh, and Bon Jovi.

    Think I’ll put one of ’em in the player right now!

  12. Andrea Bocelli does some beautiful stuff, doesn’t he, Kate. And words in a foreign language are just music.
    Oh–wanted to mention for those checking out sound tracks I mentioned, my favorite of the Morricone/Clint Eastwood album is one by Hugo Montenegro, called THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. It’s a little mellower than the actual sound tracks and features the best from all those movies.
    And thanks so much for setting me straight on “Country Western” music, Lynn. I will memorize your definitions so I won’t appear a fool next time. Good to know.

    One question, Tanya. When you play the spa music do you feel like you’re getting a massage?

  13. I have so many kinds of music, it would be hard to list them. I have Big Bands, Elvis, Rock and Roll, Country…..you get the picture. I see movement when I listen to music of any type so I love to create to any music.

  14. Here’s the opening music to Chisum, I love this kind of ‘john wayne’ music.

    Here’s maybe the best EVER. Jessica’s Theme from The Man From Snowy River. If you’ve never seen it you HAVE TOO. Part 2 is great, too.
    Have any of you seen the movie, the scene where they’re chasing the wild horses and the horses are racing along, running up and up the mountain then suddenly they hit snow and the music changes and everything’s slow motion, then the horses plunge over this insanely steep cliff and keep running almost straight downhill.
    OH MY GOSH this is the most PERFECT use of music mixed with beauty I’ve ever seen

  15. Hi Elizabeth,

    I might in the minority of authors who want complete silence when they’re writing, but I do love music.

    Some of it makes me tap my toes and wish I could cut a rug. And some just speaks to my soul in a unspoken language. I grew up with Elvis. He was my main man. Then I developed a liking for The Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart. Rod Stewart sang some great love songs. So tender they made me feel as if he was singing them just for me.

    Great topic! Thanks for the memories it evoked.

  16. You see movement? Wow, I never thought of it that way, Connie. That’s a neat way to enjoy music.

    Oh, wow, I checked out the youtube link, Mary. It gave me goose bumps. Can’t believe you found this! Thanks so much for sharing. Now I have to go back and watch the others.

    A couple of years ago Morricone received an Oscar for lifetime achievement. For those who’d remember such things, he was the cute little old guy who gave his acceptance speech in Italian.

  17. Some of the most productive authors I know write in silence, Linda. It’s whatever worked.
    Elvis was the best, and I still love the Stones. Something so delightfully wicked about Sir Mick…

  18. well I dont know about writing but I just came back from spending a week babysitting for my daughter while she an her husband was out of town for 7 days an nights,omg,i flew from VT to TN to have my gramma time,one was 3 an the other was almost 6 months.Ones name is Jacob an the others name is Josiah,whom I have renamed “screamin Jimmy”OMG,I have the theme song from Rocky runnin thru my head,,I feel like I have wentthe full 28 rounds an just had my rear kickly soundly,this kid screamed all night an day,okay,I had to sit at the airport on the wayback for 5 hours,I said,this is great,Ill read my books,turn my phone off,take a valium,put a sticky note to my chest that says Grandma pushed over the edge,back the H— off! DO NOT TOUCH!DO NOT Speak!She just might snap,lmao,dont get me wrong I loveeeeeeeeee my grandchildren,but there is a reason God put us thru the menopause,an let young women have babies,Im in the process of moving closer to them BUT no more long trips until screamin Jimmy stops screamin,thanks,here goes the ROCKY THEME SONG,da,da,da,ta,ta,da,hahaa,Vickie

  19. Taryn, I love oldies, too and have a whole shelf organized from 50s to 80s. I think I might be embarrassed to name many of them. LOL

    Elizabeth, I have western CDs, too, and occasionally listen for inspiration. My favorites are movie soundtracks…I might be embarrassed to mention those, too. I don’t have very sophisicated tastes in music. LOL

  20. Oh my goodness Vickie, I am laughing so hard at your Screamin’ Jimmy post! Several years back I spent a week out of town with grandkids while my daughter and s-i-l went skiing. It wasn’t the kids, but the BEAGLE that drove me crazy. Chip was a young escape artist who had to be baby gated in the back hall, and tied out periodically, because they had no fence. He yapped and yipped and howled and tangled his chain around everything. I was never so glad to escape that dog. My granddaughter still remembers me not-so-compassionately calling him a dumb dog as I untangled him in the pouring rain.

  21. Vickie, the tears of laughter are still running down my cheeks as I write this (as a Gramma I understand). Loved your post! Loved it! Hope the Rocky Song is fading from your memory. Congratulations on surviving the week!

    Cheryl, not sure why you sound apologetic for your taste in music. You are one of the most sophisticated and savvy ladies I know. So there!

  22. Forgot to mention that right now I am writing my western to the JUMP IN CD that is playing from down the hall. It’s summer vacation, don’t you know?

    And it’s RAINING yet again in Nebraska. Feeling for those poor folks in Iowa and Missourri.

    Charlene, I wish we could send some of this rain to the fires in California!

  23. Why Elizabeth in that case, I’ll just admit I love Donny Osmond, Cher and The B-52s with a good old Grease soundtrack thrown in. LOL

    Besides the Good the Bad and the Ugly soundtrack you mentioned, I love my Lonesome Dove soundtrack.

  24. Vickie I hope writing that post took some of the pressure off. LOL
    My mother in law, one of my favorite people on the planet and a woman with … oh yikes… maybe 34 grandchildren and 15 greats and two great-greats, is fond of saying: “I love to see the little angels come and I’m glad to see the little devils go.”

  25. Hey, Cheryl, I don’t have Lonesome Dove–strange, since I love the movie. Maybe I’ll give Amazon some business and order it today. And I love Grease.

    Great saying from your mother-in-law Mary. I can handle about two hours with Olivia the Royal Princess Who Must be Obeyed. Then I’m ready to send her home to Mommy.

  26. I’m very much like you. Have to have music to write, and my collection too is varied– although I seem to gravitate to Scottish and Irish, western, and classical. I have some great love song music for when I”m doing love scenes.

  27. The Scottish and Irish (Celtic?) music is beautiful, isn’t it, Pat. One of my favorite sound tracks is “The Shipping News” which is based on Irish fiddle tunes.
    Very tempted to ask what music you use for love scenes, but I’ll respect that as a trade secret.

  28. Hi Elizabeth!

    I, too, write to music — but only when I;m creatively writing. If I;m editing it sometimes drives me crazy. I don;t mind words in songs, the only thing that makes a difference to me is if the music moves me. I love all kinds of music, from country to rock n roll, to inspirational to classical. Again it;s only important to me that it moves me. : )

    Great post.

  29. Thanks, Karen (and my first attempt at a reply just went away so in case you get two, you’ll know what happened.
    Writing and editing are such different processes. I don’t mind editing to music but can understand why you do.
    And it’s hard to define what moves us–but when we hear it we know.
    Hope your hand is getting better. Hugs.

  30. Extremely eclectic music for this musical family!
    Honey and all four of our children play a variety
    of instruments, as do our dil and sil. Eldest
    grandaughter plays the violin. All of us have been
    in church choirs, so most prevalent music in our lives is choral religious music.

    Pat Cochran

  31. Mary, your message came through my email but didn’t post on the site for some reason.
    I loved the music from Chisum and Man From Snowy River. The horse descent was gorgeous. I’ve seen both films but it’s been years and I’d forgotten the wonderful music. Thanks again!

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