Sunday, June 03, 2007

Rambling About Music

Update on the big bounce: Sweetness & Light (aka 3 yr old and 7 yr old boys) have NEVER gone to sleep so quickly without a song, dance or fight as they have in the past two nights. The trampoline is turning out to be the ideal energy buster for my boys. They boing, sweat, drink water by the gallon, boing some more then drop like exhausted little kittens. Talk about Mommy's little helper!!

Nicholas over at A Gentleman's Domain mentioned that he'll be podcasting soon; a once a week gig focusing on jazz. (Hope I'm not spoiling any surprises, Nicholas!) This got me thinking (deeper than usual) about music, it's effects on people, how it is and isn't like reading. I'm going into an unplanned ramble, so bear with me...
Not everyone reads. There are some people who just don't enjoy books - fiction or non. (I don't get it, but hey). But have you ever heard anyone say that they don't like music? ANY kind of music? Rap, jazz, gospel, pop? Everyone likes SOME kind of music, right? It's an inarguable fact that every culture on earth since the dawn of man has some sort of identifiable sound -- melody, chant or beat.
If good music is good music (as in - all the notes sound pretty together), why don't we all share the same faves? Why do we tend to gravitate towards 'genres'. Nicholas for instance, likes jazz, and if you've ever visited his blog, it's quite obvious.
Me? I think jazz is alright. I'm listening to Billie Holiday as I blog, in fact. She's got a voice like honey - smooth, relaxing and non-intrusive. But I'm not passionate about it. Jazz doesn't speak to me, like it obvious does Nicholas.
Why? What is it in music that resonates with some but not others. Are we born with an inner tuning fork that gives us a predilection for a particular style? Let me be clear - I'm not talking about lyrics, just the instrumental bits, because if you don't like the tune, chances are you're not going to like the song, no matter how poetic the prose.

Are some more sensitive to music than others, or do we all feel as deeply and stongly when our personal forks are tweaked with a vibration, beat, or magical combination of notes?
Here are a few examples of what dings my fork:
  • Nickelback's Chad Kroeger makes me feel like he's kissing my neck when he sings.
  • I can't keep my hips still when Nelly Furtado teams up with Timbaland, and I can't stop myself from turning up my car radio (really loud) when Fall Out Boy's Arms Race comes on. Anything by Bon Jovi works well in the car for some reason.
  • I've NEVER been able to stop the tears from flowing when the first few bars of Do They Know It's Christmas is played (maybe because I know what lyrics are coming?) and Corey Hart's Never Surrender all these years later continues to make my heart swell up so it feels like it's about to explode out of my chest.
  • Both Pink and Xtina make me all "I am woman, I am power".
  • The Eagles' Hotel California and Don MacLean's American Pie are two songs that I can't NOT sing along to when they come on, no matter where I am or whom I'm with. Same with the old Mamas and Papas California Dreaming.
  • Phantom of the Opera's Masquerade, the bit near the end when they all start singing in unison while coming down the stairs, has a rhythm and majesty that makes me wish I had at least 6 more ears to drink it in.
  • There's a two minute piece in Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Autumn's adagio molto, that invades every corner of my soul. I stop doing whatever I'm doing, close my eyes and float away into the melody. Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata has a similar effect, but not quite so strong. It's such a delicate sound that I'm afraid to move lest I shatter the fragile beauty.

I know many writers like to have music in the background. I prefer silence, but if I do need to throw some heavy emotion in, I turn to Alicia Keys' Fallin' or Evanescence's My Immortal to get me properly 'longing'.

I'm interested to know, what songs or 'genre' of music speaks to your inner tuning fork?


Leah Braemel said...

I'm like you - I can't write while music's playing, it just distracts me too much. Yet music can inspire me to write a specific scene. Very strange - I'm guessing that music influences the creative part of the brain.

OK, I am going to sound like an old fart here, but I'm not into Evanescence, or Nickelback or Nelly Furtado. There are a few 'golden oldies' that get me movie - Guess Who's American Woman. Holy Moly I cannot stop myself from moving to that one. (Better not explain to them down in Dallas that it's not a love song to Americans)

I love celtic music - Loreena McKennitt for instance. I like some big band music. I like Harry Connick Jr. but I'm not a Frank Sinatra fan - go figure why I'd like one and not the other. I adore classical, but mainly within the baroque period - Handel is at the top of my list there. I LOVE sitting in a church and listening to the choir - a good one that is - I stayed for a mass at York Minster specifically to hear the choir - something about the accoustics that just settled in my chest and reverberated. And there are some songs that can literally make me shiver when I hear them. Modern or classical.

And one thing you didn't mention but movie scores can make or break a movie for me. I hated Titanic, actually laughed at the ending when Kate Winslet's character is saying 'I'll never let you go' as she pushes Leo's body into the water. But that score! OMG It just was so fantastic I could listen to it as it held the drama that the script failed to deliver for me. (During the last half of the movie I kept muttering "Somebody give that poor girl something else to say other than 'Jack! Jack!'")

The Lord of the Rings music is like that too. I can hear a piece and know it represents the Rohans or the hobbits, Howard Shore is a genius.

Yet I can't play music - I can't hear a ring tone on a violin, much to my youngest son's dismay. But yeah, music definitely 'dings my fork'.

Christine said...

I love music, always have. But there isn't one type of musical style that I gravitate towards. I like individual songs, how they make me feel. Sometimes I listen to music to distract me from what's going on around me. It acts like white noise. Other times, I need to listen to music to recharge my creative batteries.

I do love Loreena McKennitt, but I also love Disturbed, Bob Seger, Nickleback, Justin Timberlake...whatever suits my mood.

And then sometimes, I just like silence. :)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I write best with music. Go figure. I write ABOUT music and the people who help bring it to us.

I mean, doesn't that say everything about me and music?

(I knew I liked Christine; Disturbed is my #2 favorite)

Amy Ruttan said...

MMMmm you gave me goosebumps when I thought about Masquerade. Ah, perfection.

I listen to music. I must when I write. What motivates me the most when I'm in my slump ... Lose youself by Eminem from 8 mile.

"Look if you had only one moment to get everything you ever wanted, would you capture it?"

You like Arms Race, that song drives me nuts. Only because they play a kabillion times a day while I'm at work. I used to like it. Now, bleh. I'm starting to hate Paralyzer too, because of the overplaying. The only songs that can't overplay for me are gwen songs. 3 days baby!

Nicholas said...

Well, all goes to show -- each to his/her own. My own musical tastes are very narrow, and there is a great deal I actively dislike and avoid. Given the choice I will always listen to pre-war jazz or else classical, prefer ably nineteenth century rather than eighteenth, but then there is always Mozart. I think we enjoy a lot of music because of the memories it invokes rather than for how it sounds. Nothing can trigger memories like music. That’s why so I enjoy so many tunes from the sixties and seventies, even if they are utter crap (Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree for example), because they take me back to a place or event.

On your list I’m afraid there are several that are completely unknown to me, but I agree about California Dreaming. In fact, anything by the Ms and Ps.

I prefer to write in silence. If I play music I like, I have a tendency to stop and listen. If I write somewhere where music is playing that I can’t control, and it’s not something I like, I just tune it out.


I loved this, Wylie. Got me thinking hmm...I write in silence, but when I'm stuck and take a break somewhere, I listen to some music.

Music makes you feel alive. It is powerful, touching, gripping.

As for songs, I love ANDREA BOCCELLI'S Time to say Goodbye.

I love Phantom's every song, but lately I've loved Carlotta's song in the dressing room, when the owners are just BEGGING her to sing...haha, I love it!

Candy Minx said...

I don't listen to anything while I'm writing. I do while I am blogging occassionally, depends what I'm in the mood for...I've beena t the computer for a couple of hours drinking tea, but not playing music. the sounds of trucks and city instead. Later on I will pick some music..after I watch my morning shows.

I listen to all kinds of music...but mostly music with high energy lie dance music. I love techno, Gwen, Madonna U2, Prince, Sublime, Audiolave...I love alternative rock the best probably, punk hard rocking music. I also have listened to a lot of jazz...but it's kind of quiet music,

I have seen alot of different kinds of performers from Maceo Parker to Soundgarden, to The Clash to Rosemary Clooney to Michael Jackson to Madonna to Bruce Springsteen to Alien Sex Feind.

I love seeing live music...but it is getting soe xpensive.

I love hip hop and rap, I love soem pop music...

but I don't like classical, it's okay in movies but in life I find it depressing.

I believe there is some kidn fo inner core thing that is chemical or something about the kinds of music we listen to. If I am stressed from work I'll just blare rock liek Ausioslave or Daft Punk or soemthign LOUD.

Love this post Wylie. I think I have a million other things I could write about here but better slow down ha!

Hye if you ahve a chance can you watch Oprah tomorrow? I'd love to ehar you Amy and Christines opinion about ehr interview with the media shy Cormac McCArthy...I just posted about this today....

Thomma Lyn said...

I love all kinds of music, and what I listen to depends on my mood, and I often listen to music while writing but not always.

I love everything from Bach to Beethoven to Rachmaninov to Gershwin to Muddy Waters to Allison Krauss to Johnny Cash to Led Zeppelin to Tori Amos to Metallica -- my musical tastes range very wide. :)

And ohhhhh yes, I just adore Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique and Four Seasons.

Great post!

Rene said...

I don't really need music to write with however music does tend to influence me. Right now, I'm writing a book which takes place in L.A. I think of the Doors while I'm writing. I don't actually listen to them when I'm writing because I get distracted and start singing along.

I listen to a lot of new agey celtic crap, elevator music for the fortysomething generation. But I like it and it soothes and inspires me.

I'm really into Amy Winehouse right now. I love that smokey, sleazy, desperate sound she has.

Wylie Kinson said...

Oh - I'm so behind on commenting on my comments!!

Leah - I completely agree on the movie scores. The thing is, I don't notice them unless they're bad. Which is a good thing, right? Because it blends into the emotion of the movie so well?? It isn't until the second or third re-watch that my ear picks and separates the music. One score I particularly enjoyed (though the movie was iffy) was Robin Hood with Kevin Costner -- the french horns,... ahhhhh.

Christine - you said it all with 'whatever suits my mood'. True that!

Susan - Yeah... I could have guessed!! ;)

Amy - I'm not sick of either of those, yet, but only because I rarely get the opportunity to listen to the radio. I AM pretty sick of the "LITTLE PEOPLE SING-A-LONG" that's standard issue in the minivan! ;)

Nicholas - you bring up an excellent point about memories -- but that doesn't explain why I like baroque/romantic classical, as despite what my kids think, I wasn't around back then, and my first hearing of them when I studied piano wouldn't be a GOOD association! But anything 80's can whip my head back into high-school/college so fast my face breaks out.
Rock Lobster anyone??

Red - Oh, I LOVES me some Andrea B. I had the opportunity to catch a short live performance of his and it made me love him even more.

Candy - I'd enjoyed your ramble as much I enjoyed rambling myself! I can see why you would listen to music while you paint -- I imagine it would compliment your creativity. But any songs with lyrics get confused with the words I'm writing which is why I stick to instrumental pieces.
I'll try to catch the Oprah/McCarthy interview tomorrow - although it clashes with Go, Diego, Go! ;) Thanks for the heads-up.

TL - I can't quite picture you as a metalhead!! LOL at THAT image. Then again, you ride a HAWG, so you've already proven you don't fit into a neat little stereotype of a quiet southern gal who composes classical music :)

Rene - Amy Winehouse has an amazing sound. When I saw her for the first time the image and voice didn't go together in my head, AT ALL!
And I enjoy the new agey stuff in the background when I'm writing. I really like Enigma, but can't find my CD since I moved from Bermuda 2 years ago... think I'll go buy another.

pussreboots said...

I do most of my writing to Moby. I also have a large selection of Missippi John Hurt, Gordon Lightfoot and Cole Porter on my playlist. Some of the weirder things include some sound tracks to video games, one of the sound tracks from Cowboy Bebop and a sound track from Xena. Oh yeah, and some Gershwin and Aaron Copland. My tastes are eclectic. LOL!

Dewey said...

Masquerade for me is one of those songs that gets stuck in my head and just won't go away. It's not that I don't like it as a piece of music. It's just that it's so damn catchy.

I can listen to music when I write, but I can not listen to music with lyrics when I'm reading. Too many words coming in!