Top Five Songs I Would Write to if I Didn’t Find Music So Damn Distractingby David Waid
I have this vision of me writing fiction beneath a vine-covered pergola in Giverny, a glass of wine in my hand while music spills from the tuba end of a nearby Victrola.
Among the many reasons this will never happen, alas, is that I am incapable of writing a lick when there is even the slightest distraction.
Sunlight, for example.
Or music. Music inspires my writing; I just can’t have it playing while I’m in the process of writing. So here are the five songs or musical pieces that most inspire my writing (as opposed to my favorite songs) and which I’d probably listen to while writing, if only I could.
While typing this post, I realized that each of these tunes has been part of a television or film soundtrack, which I suppose is an indicator of just how addicted to the screen I am.
In descending order, they are:
- 1977, by Ana Tijoux
This is hip-hop in Spanish from a French Chilean and featured in Season 4, Episode 5 of Breaking Bad. Not understanding the language meant I could only listen to the sound of the words and the rhythm of how they’re strung together. I did finally look up the lyrics, and they’re fun – plus the song is just kind of bad-ass.
- Leaving Las Vegas, by Sheryl Crow
The title song from the movie with Nicolas Cage. As you can might surmise, I enjoy songs that tell a story, and this is a heart-wrenching one. Who hasn’t felt desperately down-and-out at some point in their life?
- Brideshead Revisited, by Geoffrey Burgon
I just love this piece that was written to be the theme of the eponymous 1981 TV mini-series, based on the novel by Evelyn Waugh. And BTW, if you like Downton Abbey, there’s a good chance you will like the TV production of Brideshead, whose cast included Jeremy Irons, John Gielgud and, for two episodes, Laurence Olivier. This is not to be confused with the 2008 film version, which I have never seen.
- Down in the Willow Garden, traditional Appalachian ballad
This song originated in Ireland sometime during the early 19th century and is now considered a traditional murder ballad (did you even know that was a thing?!). Holly Hunter sings it as a lullaby to the baby she’s kidnapped in the movie, Raising Arizona. My favorite version is by The Tom Paines.
- Adagio for Strings, by Samuel Barber
This beautiful piece earned first place because when I listened to it, the end to my second novel unfolded in my mind with surprising clarity. Now I just have to enter the Fortress of Ineffable Solitude and write the damn thing. Adagio for Strings has been used in many films and television shows, including Amélie, Platoon and The Elephant Man.
Is there particular music that sparks your creativity? If so, please share. Let us all in on the inspiration!
David Waid is author of the historical fantasy novel, Conjurers, for which he is sending out query letters. He has a compilation of short stories and a sequel novel currently in progress. You can reach him to ask questions or berate his musical taste at email@example.com.
I love this post, David. And love music – generally can’t work without it. Except when I’m trying to work out a challenging concept or bit of dialogue that won’t come. But then, I just turn the music down, not off. No songs as specific as these – except for the A side of Joshua Tree. I posted about the powerful impact of music a few years ago. Thanks for sharing!
Marcie (aka Laura O)
I like to listen to music from the time period, but it has to be instrumental. I can’t have all those extraneous words floating around while I’m trying to think up my own. Great post! Now I have to go google all that music!
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