Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Music That Inspires Us

by Trish Milburn

As writers, we're always trying to evoke emotions from our readers. Love, heartbreak, fear, longing -- you name it, there's some piece of music out there that can evoke it too. Though I'm not one of those writers who typically listens to music when I write, there are artists and music that inspire my storytelling. I'm a great collector of movie soundtracks because I think they do such a wonderful job of evoking emotion -- that's their job. My current favorite is Avatar. Love it! Here's a medley of several of the songs someone put together.

The music that inspires us doesn't have to be something we listen to while writing. Sometimes an artist's lyrics or the type of music they create over many songs can speak to the type of story we want to tell. I found this to be true while writing Winter Longing, my second young adult novel due out in August. The heroine of this book, Winter Craig, has to go through some really heart-wrenching things, and I found myself listening to a lot of Breaking Benjamin, particularly songs like "Breath" from their Phobia album. It was lyrics like "You took the breath right out of me, You left a hole where my heart should be" that really summed up the feelings I was trying to evoke. Several songs from that album really worked, so much so that I worked it into the story that Winter listens to the album a lot.

I decided to check in with the rest of the Banditas to see if and how music relates to their writing. Here's what they had to say. See if you see any favorite songs/artists among their inspiration.

Christine Wells:

I find that songs set the mood for particular moments in my books, not necessarily the entire book--a couple I'm listening to now for a seduction book are "Only When I Sleep" (The Corrs), "Take My Breath Away" (Berlin), and "Sexy Back" (Justin Timberlake). My hero thinks he's such hot stuff!"

Cassondra Murray:

"For me, it's Stevie Nicks. Specifically, right now, it's the Trouble in Shangri-la album. I was listening to it on the interstate while I thought about one of the manuscripts I was working on and BAM. There it was. It was perfect. It encompassed the dark, murky, elusive sense that I want for this book. I got ideas for several scenes as I was thinking about it. As it turned out, that CD was right for the entire series I was working on."

Tawny Weber:

"Peter Paul & Mary. Love them. Gordon Lightfoot, vintage BeeGees, heck, the Monkees ballads. I listen to them all while I write, mixed in with Pink, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears (yes, I admit it – but wait, it gets worse), and The Spice Girls. The mainstays, though, are Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Guns & Roses, Savage Garden, etc..."

Nancy Northcott:

"I can't write to music that has lyrics. I write my spy books to the theme from Alias -- so that's already a soundtrack--and the historicals to period music. It's okay if the lyrics are in Italian or Latin since that's just so much noise to me. I have to focus to do any kind of Latin translation anymore and have lost most of my vocabulary there. Soundtracks like the Fellowship of the Ring or Pirates of the Caribbean or other orchestral pieces work because they're mostly

Anna Sugden:

"A band whose lyrics speak to me is Chicago. Each song tells a story. Tim McGraw also has songs that tell a good story and some of the older Billy Ray Cyrus. Then again, with some songs, it’s just the feel of the music."

Caren Crane:

"For me and my work I would choose Kings Of Leon. You can tell they're Southern, for one thing, and their music is infused with passion, longing, angst, the joy of youth and a hefty dose of melancholia. They perfectly encapsulate how I felt when I was a 20-something, and I want to get all that into my books. I wish they had been around when I was their age."

If you're a writer, tell us what type of music or particular artists inspire you. If you're not a writer, is there an artist whose music really speaks to you?


limecello said...


Donna MacMeans said...

Darn it Lime - I thought the chook was mine (grin).

Like Trish, I like to listen to soundtracks as they seem to run the gamut of emotions in one album. One of my favorites is The Last of the Mohicans - very stirring. Otherwise, when I listen to music it can be a mishmash because it's just white noise. If I'm in the writing zone, I'm in my own world and really not even aware if music is playing. Silence works fine for me as well.

limecello said...

Trish, I love this post! I think music and books totally go well together. Some songs make me think of books, and I know a number of authors make book playlists.
I've actually written a post titled "Heroine Anthems" -with songs I felt fit perfectly for stages X, Y, and Z for certain types of heroines. There's a "Hero Anthems" post too - but :\ nobody has scheduled that.
Anyway, I like songs more than artists, really. And I'm incredibly fickle so it changes regularly... but Disguise by Lene Marlin - oh I listened to that song for days on repeat. (I know, I'm one of *those* people.) White Flag by Dido... Defying Gravity by the original cast of Wicked... Everything You Want by Vertical Horizon. With or Without You - U2. Run, by Collective Soul... 500 Miles by the Proclaimers... White Town's song "Your Woman." Stuttering (Kiss Me Again) by Ben's Brother...
One Million Miles Away by J Ralph - but that's really because of the Volkswagon commercial, which is like, my favorite commercial of all time. I keep asking authors to write a story based on it :P Heck -I'd be tempted to. You know, if I wrote. I'll stop now, but I'm including the link because I REALLY hope you [plural] watch it!

jo robertson said...

Interesting topic, Trish. I love to write to music, with or without lyrics. My brain seems to be able to handle the two creative stimuli at the same time.

I don't care for anything too raucous though, or anything that makes me want to get up and dance LOL.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Lime with the rooster again! He's going to have start paying rent at your place.

Donna, I LOVE Last of the Mohicans and its soundtrack.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Lime, I love "Defying Gravity", so much so that I bought a T-shirt that says that when I went to see Wicked on Broadway. It was awesome!

And that's a cool commercial and music. I can't remember if I'd seen that before.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Jo, I reserve the raucous, dancing music for when I'm cleaning house. :)

PinkPeony said...

Congrats on the GR, Lime!

I prefer old standards. I think I was born ten years too late. Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett. Dusty Springfield, Brasil 66, vintage James Taylor. Also Michael Buble, EW&Fire and soundtracks to romantic of my faves is the track to Notting Hill. Just picked up a Stylistics Greatest Hits cd...Betchabygollywow!

Jane said...

Hi Trish,
My cousin loves Breaking Benjamin's "Diary of Jane" and got me to listen to it. I like Coldplay, The Verve and U2. My favorite soundtracks include music from Band of Brothers and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Helen said...

Congrats lime have fun with him

Trish great post I love music and I love listening to the words in songs some of them have such deep meaning.One song that is very sexy is The First Time Ever I saw Your Face by Roberta Flack and if you saw the movie Play Misty For Me it was set so well with the scene. I love ballards some of my favourites are sung by The Eagles and I notice a lot of the bandits have chosen artists that I really like Gordon Lightfoot, The Bee Gees The Monkees and of course my favourite is Rod Sewart.

Have Fun

Kirsten said...

About two days ago I "discovered" James Carrington. I absolutely LOVE his song: Ache. Don't know why but for some reason he's beautfil voice is "haunting" me, as are the simple words.

Deb Marlowe said...

I'm a total silence girl when I write--I need the quiet, or just the sounds of birds or nature, to get into the zone.

I do have certain songs that inspire what I'm writing, or will kick start a new way to look at my wip. Madonna's Power of Goodbye was the theme song for Sophie in my first book, Scandalous Lord, Rebellious Miss!

MJFredrick said...

When I saw the title of this post, I knew whose it was :) I'm currently looking for music for my next WIP's soundtrack. I love having a soundtrack because after awhile, the music puts me in the story, no warming up.

Caren Crane said...

Lime, you just beat poor Donna to the chook! You must be keeping the GR in lux surroundings or he wouldn't keep flying back to you. *g*

Lime, I LOVED that VW commercial. I hadn't seen it before, but it does make me want to write a story. Great stuff!

Here is a link to my favorite Kings Of Leon song ever, Cold Desert. Love the whistling at the beginning (which you can't hear well in this version) and the sheer longing and hopeless love. Ignore the awful pictures, since they're actually pretty cute little things and not generally sporting ZZ Top hair. *g*

Susan Sey said...

Hey, Trish, what a great topic!

I'm one of those writers who's inspired by music (lyrics particularly) but can't listen to music at all (even instrumental stuff) while I write. I require utter silence to rub two thoughts together, which explains my incoherence these past 6-7 years of motherhood.

But I wrote an entire book once (that hasn't, sadly, sold) based on Five for Fighting's Superman, this one line in particular:

Even heroes have the right to bleed

I just thought it was really evocative, & set up such a great tension. Heroes don't bleed. They leap tall buildings in a single bound. What happens when your hero's on the ropes? Can you step down from that kind of gig?

I'm really looking forward to hearing whatever everybody else says on this topic! If I ever learn to write to music, I'm totally going to you for a playlist!

MsHellion said...

I like movie soundtracks--complete junkie--and I love to listen to: Braveheart, Last of the Mohicans, and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (that song where they kiss is awesome!!! We should *all* have soundtracks like that when we kiss!)

I like to make soundtracks for my books sometimes. (Sometimes I make them after I wrote the book, since a lot of my writing is discovering as I go.) They're good for edits, and they'll have Maroon 5, and songs from the soundtrack A Lot Like Love, and Gary Allan or George Strait songs. Just everything.

Laurie said...

I get inspired by all kinds of music but the songs I'm most frequently listening to now is Broken by Seether and Amy Lee, Johnny Cash's version of Hurt, and the soundtrack from Phantom of the Opera.

Some of mainstays include: Rachmaninoff, Loreena McKennitt, Evanescence, Santana, Gordon Lightfoot, Heart, Joan Baez, and the soundtracks of Somewhere In Time and The Last of the Mohicans.

Great post!

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

PinkPeony, I've seen Notting Hill, but I can't remember the soundtrack. I'll have to check it out.

Jane, I have "Diary of Jane" on my playlist too -- several songs from Phobia and the entire CD of Dear Agony, which is their new one. They're on tour now, and I'd love to see them but they're not coming here. :(

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Helen, songwriting really is an incredible art form -- to put that much meaning and emotion into so few words and to pick the right music to set the lyrics too. It's totally beyond me. My husband writes music, so we have two writers in the house who write in totally different ways.

Oh, and I love me some Bee Gees. Great dance music.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Kirsten, I didn't recognize the song you were talking about until I went to YouTube and found it. I have heard it and think it's a great song. They used it on Smallville once, so that's probably the first time I heard it.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Deb, cool that Madonna's song was an inspiration. I saw she was going to be one of the guests on The Marriage Ref, and for some reason that really surprised me. I admire her staying power in the music industry, changing with the times to stay relevant.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

MJ, you know me so well. :) Do you find you have artists that you go back to over and over for book soundtracks? I've never done one of those, but I think I might on one of my upcoming projects.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Caren, I like Kings of Leon too. Hey, got to like the local boys. :)

Susan, that is a great line from that song. Isn't it amazing how a single lyric can set the imagination to firing with story possibilities?

I'm having fun playing all these suggested songs on YouTube as I respond to posts.

Joan said...

I'm with Susan, I cannot write and listen to music at the same time.

But the soundtrack to Lord of the Dance? That's my new series in a nutshell!

But the music that is provocative to me are the themes. What comes to mind right now? The theme music that opens of "Forrest Gump" That lovely melody invokes the challenges, the heartaches, the courage and the triumph Forrest and his own have faced.

Add a floating feather and wham...I'm hooked.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Oh, MsHellion, I love "One Day" too -- totally agree with you about that being a perfect kiss song. For anyone who doesn't know what we're talking about, this is it:

The kiss occurs at 2:51. Oh, dreamy sigh. Orlando looking awesome.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Laurie, I love "Broken" by Seether and Amy Lee. I saw Seether in concert a year or two ago. They were opening for Nickelback. Also saw Evanescence. Love Loreena McKinnett too.

Anna Sugden said...

Interesting post, Trish.

I discovered a fascinating thing the other day - how fast I run or power walk (bloody hamstring) really does depend on the music I play. I can't listen to podcasts or anything like that - it has to be stuff with a strong beat to power my forward momentum.

Things like Dire Straits Walk of Life and Twisting by the Pool, Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Two Tribes and Elton John's Philadelphia Freedom, as well as Boz Scaggs' Lido Shuffle and Shania's Man, I Feel Like a Woman. Even, Birdhouse in Your Soul, by They Might be Giants! I also like Classical Gas by Mason Williams - it's an instrumental I used to figure skate to many years ago.

But, while I can do most other things to music, I can't write - because I get too easily distracted (I get too easily distracted anyway!)

Anna Sugden said...

Susan - you love a hockey band?! Five for Fighting are great!

One of the hockey podcasts is doing a feature on what players have on their iPods for when they travel. It's actually quite interesting as it's not all what you'd think. This week, one of the goaltenders talked about listening to Vivaldi's Four Seasons!

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Joan, I can so see you listening to Lord of the Dance. :)

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Anna, there's definitely a benefit to listening to up-tempo music while exercising.

And that sounds cool about the hockey players' iPod playlists.

Joan said...

Joan, I can so see you listening to Lord of the Dance. :)

You should see me EXERCISE to it!!!

Or not.

I have the DVD too :-)

Louisa Cornell said...

Lime, I think he's decided to make your house is headquarters from which he plots his deadly visits to everyone else!

Neat post, Trish!

I do listen to music when I am writing, but not all of the time. Sometimes I need music to get me going or to keep me in the mood of the scene. Sometimes I just need quiet.

The Raven's Heart was written almost entirely to Mozart's Requiem. And when I sat down to do these revisions I discovered that listening to the Requiem helped.

I prefer orchestral music for writing as like many have said, words can be distracting.

Movie soundtracks can be great because almost all of them employ the use of leitmotif - themes for certain characters or events and it is easy to match that to what I am writing.

The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack is a great one. As is the soundtrack to Gladiator.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Louisa, I like the Gladiator soundtrack too.

I was curious, so I just went to count how many soundtracks I have. I have 47 -- mostly movies but I have several for TV shows too. 3 from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 2 from Torchwood, 1 from Angel.

Nancy said...

Limecello, congrats on the rooster.

Trish, you already have my preferences down here, of course. I also like Loreena McKennitt. They're kind of new age-y, ballad-y songs, and I like a group called Leaves Eyes. I stumbled across one of their CDs and have yet to see another in stores. Also kind of new age-y.

I can't read with music on, though. It distracts me.

Nancy said...

Limecello, and Trish, I have that Defy Gravity t-shirt, too, although I'd really like one with regular, not cap, sleeves. What a terrific song!

p226 said...

I'm not really a writer. So, I'll answer the second part of the question.

I tend to enjoy any music performed and/or written by a true virtuoso. And I have to admit a bias towards stringed instruments. And being a metal/rock fan this leads me to music by Steve Vai. Vai's music is incredible from a technical and melodic standpoint.

Another guitar player that just leaves me in awe is a fairly obscure jazz guitarist named Stanley Jordan. The first time I caught his music was on PBS or somewhere. I heard it before I saw it, and I thought, "man, those guitarists are really tight, but this sounds weird." Then I actually looked at the TV and realized that Jordan was playing the melody, and two supporting lines all at once, by himself, on the same guitar. That guy's a virtuoso too. But he's not particularly well known.

Then there's old school.

Paganini's Caprice number 24. The pizzicato runs alone are liquid beauty put in sound. And if you think the devil went down to Georgia, that's clearly because he was terrified of Italy. Satan himself would treat Paganini's 5th with a great deal of apprehension.

Virtuosity moves me.

p226 said...

Oh... forgot to mention Valentina Lisitsa playing Chopin's Etudes.

I saw her play them live and it moved me to tears.

catslady said...

If I listen to music with words I usually have to sing along so I would get nothing done that takes any thinking. It's great though when doing housework or browsing on the computer etc. If I need to pay attention to something I enjoy soundtracks without words lol. I love a variety of music from opera to country. Just not heavy metal or serious rapping. At the moment I'm listening to Jesus Christ Superstar (have to sing along lol) because I just saw the play again (saw it almost 40 years ago).

Pat Cochran said...

We're truly a musical family, going
back at least four generations. All
beginning with my parents and their siblings and going through to our grandchildren. We all enjoy a great variety of instrumental, vocal, and soundtrack music. Some of our family favorites are Stan Kenton, The Four Freshmen, Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme, The Bee Gees, Chicago, Earth, Wind,& Fire, The Commodores, Fleetwood
Mac, and The Beatles. Add to this
list all the more modern music and
you know most of our musical tastes. The most important music
information on us is that we have been musical ministers in our
churches through all four of these generations.

Pat Cochran

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

I'm with you, Catslady. I'm going to see "Chicago" tonight and I've been humming All That Jazz all day. :-)

I don't normally listen to music when I write. But if I do, I can't concentrate with lyrics playing either. I love Mozart, Beethoven, and lots of other classical composers. LURVE the soundtracks to the LOTR trilogy. And Celtic folk music is GREAT too.


Anna Campbell said...

Congrats, Lime!

Trish, what a fascinating post. I find the who listens to what (or anything) conversation endlessly interesting.

Donna, I'm with you about the Last of the Mohicans. I wrote a whole book to the first eight tracks on that CD once (like the really gutsy stuff, less keen on the airy-fairy Celtic stuff in the second half).

I'm like Nancy. Can't have lyrics while I'm writing. So I listen to a lot of soundtracks and classical music while I'm putting a book together. Another book really seemed to fit with a Philip Glass ballet music album - go figure, so 20th century and the book was a Regency!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Deb, congratulations on finalling in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence! And our Miss Trish has finalled twice! Congratulations to you too.

Anna Campbell said...

Ooh, I vote the Gladiator soundtrack too. Especially that last track that always makes me want to cry.

Actually other soundtracks I really like are Braveheart, Iris, Dracula, The Big Easy, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Country, The Magnificent Seven and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (that one is heartbreakingly romantic). I tend not to write to ones like TBE and OBWAT because of the words, but the music is gorgeous.

Nancy said...

Pat, the boy's first guitar teacher was the son of a couple of we know. Influenced by his dad, he loves the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Who--groups from the British Invasion era. He pores over websites trying to figure out which albums have the most songs he likes. For some reason, he disdains "Greatest Hits" collections.

Nancy said...

Anna, I'm thinkin' I might need the Star Trek soundtrack for my birthday. It seems like great music to blow stuff up to. *g*

Deb said...

I wrote a Christmas poem for my Christmas cards. Does that make me a writer? :)

When my 5th graders are working, I play Kenny G. music. When they are doing creative or fun stuff, I play Taylor Swift or Bread or the soundtrack from Enchanted and other music that they like.

I discovered Michael Buble a few months ago. Ooh, smooth, like Perry Como or young Frank Sinatra.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

I'm back after running a million errands and taking the sunny, warm opportunity to wash the winter filth from my car.

Nancy, I think I've heard Leaves Eyes a few times, but I need to look them up again. They're one of those European symphonic rock bands I tend to like. Like Within Temptation, Delain, etc.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

p226, my husband is a guitar player, and I'm pretty sure he has tapes -- yes, cassette tapes :) -- of Steve Vai and Stanley Jordan. He's a big Eddie Van Halen fan, and likes Joe Satriani. I know there's someone I'm forgetting.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

catslady, I'm not really into rap or hip hop either. I like the occasional song, but as a general rule it's pretty far down on my listening list. I will admit to liking Eminem's music.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Pat, that's an impressive family history in music. I can remember listening to a lot of Chicago, and I love Fleetwood Mac. They toured through here a few years back, but the tickets were so expensive that we didn't go.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Aunty Cindy, have fun at the play! When I first saw that you were going to see Chicago tonight, my brain went immediately to Peter Cetera et al, but then I realized you meant the play. :)

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Anna, you don't like the Celtic half of the Mohicans CD? Gasp! I love Clannad, who performed the "I Will Find You" at the end of the CD.

All this talk of Last of the Mohicans has me wanting to listen to it, so I'm uploading to my iTunes so I can listen to it through my computer, which has awesome speakers attached.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Anna, I forgot to count the O' Brother, Where Art Thou? CD in my earlier soundtrack count. Hubby has it back with his stash o' music.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Deb, how cool that you play music for your students. Do you find it helps them concentrate?

Anna Campbell said...

Trish, 'don't like' might be a bit strong. But for me the really inspirational bit is that amazing main theme and the wild Scottish music of the Gael that's over the kiss and also over that final quite devastating scene in the movie. LOVE that!

Nancy said...

Deb, my husband loves Kenny G!

Deb said...

Tish, playing mellow music helps keep the chatting down and does help the kids work.

Nancy, I don't usually listen to Kenny G., but my sister suggested him because she plays his music in her classroom, too.

I'm in need of some other mellow music if anyone has suggestions.

Deb said...

oops, TRISH

limecello said...

Thanks Everyone :)

Trish and Caren - isn't that the most fabulous commercial ever?!

Nancy & Trish - I've listened to the Wicked soundtrack soooo many times - wish I'd gotten to see the original case on Broadway!

catslady said...

lol, Trish, Eminem's music is really the only rap I really like too.