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On Writing > do you listen to music when you write?

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message 1: by Maureen, mo-nemclature (new)

Maureen (modusa) | 683 comments Mod
kind of says it all -- i asked martyn this question the other day...

and if you do listen to music when you write, what kind of music do you listen to? is it instrumental, or are there words? if there are words, are they distinguishable?


message 2: by Jonathan, the skipper (new)

Jonathan | 609 comments Mod
. . . i can't do it . . . it distracts me from inhabiting the story . . .


message 3: by Kerry, flame-haired janeite (new)

Kerry Dunn (kerryanndunn) | 886 comments Mod
What about listening to music when you read? I do sometimes in order to drown out the tv (if Phillip has it on in the other room) or other neighborhood sounds. But it has to be instrumental: classical, or a film score or even jazz. But that can still distract sometimes...if it's a piece I know really well I'll start to "sing" along with the notes in my head and find myself having to reread whole paragraphs.


message 4: by Shel, ad astra per aspera (new)

Shel (shelbybower) | 946 comments Mod
I listen to single-instrument music. Bach's cello concertos, usually, or Chopin's piano concertos. Also, there must be the smell of coffee nearby.


message 5: by Adrian (new)

Adrian | 253 comments No music for writing fiction or poetry, but I make a lot of notes in longhand and when I'm transferring them to a computer screen I'll often listen to two favorite works by Bach: The Musical Offering and The Art of Fugue. These serve as some kind of creative trance music that enables me to improvise on the notes and expand them into more detailed outlines or scenes without generating the tension or doubts that might arise in the act of writing.

I think when Virginia Woolf was writing The Waves she had a period when she became obsessed with a couple of the late string quartets of Beethoven. She listened to 78s, but Proust was wealthy enough to hire musicians when he wanted to hear those works. There was an awkward evening when Proust met Stravinsky and mentioned his passion for the quartets.

Proust at the Majestic


message 6: by Adrian (new)

Adrian | 253 comments Kerry wrote: "What about listening to music when you read?..."

Music is too distracting if I'm trying to read fiction or poetry, but I can enjoy it playing in the background when I'm reading a biography or some type of belles lettres, especially a writer's correspondence or essays. Sometimes I'll choose a mix that seems to be an appropriate soundtrack for the book: I listened to the Doors, the Beatles, and Jefferson Airplane while reading Joan Didion's essays from the '60s. And the outer-space jazz of Sun Ra was good for a bio. of Philip K. Dick.

Sometimes I'll choose unusual combinations: the operas of Philip Glass for reading art criticism (Sanskrit lyrics buzzing around while looking at abstract expressionist paintings); the eerie soundtrack that Glass composed for Mishima was playing on a loop while I read Elias Canetti's vicious memoirs, Party in the Blitz.


message 7: by Ry (new)

Ry (downeyr) | 173 comments The only time that listening to music while writing works for me is when I'm already listening to the music and as I'm listening to a particular song, I get an idea for a story. And before I know it, I can see where the story is going and where the pieces are going to fall. At that point, I just put that particular song on repeat and start writing as fast as I can until I finish (hopefully) a few hours later.


message 8: by Patty, free birdeaucrat (new)

Patty | 896 comments Mod
You can listen to the same song over and over for hours at a time, Ry? (For me that would probably be the most heinous torture technique possible.)

I can't listen to music when I write (not even emails) or when I read, but sometimes I do listen to sports radio.


message 9: by Ry (new)

Ry (downeyr) | 173 comments Patty wrote: "You can listen to the same song over and over for hours at a time, Ry? (For me that would probably be the most heinous torture technique possible.)

I can't listen to music when I write (not even..."


Haha, Patty, your comment about the same song for hours on end is what I would have said to your listening to sports radio. ;)

I normally can't listen to the same song for hours, but if I get the right one that puts me into the tone of the story, I can't pull myself away from it until I finish writing. And usually, I'm plunged so deeply into the writing itself that the music doesn't really reach my ears anymore. It's just there surrounding me, but if someone were to turn it off, I'd realize. Yes, it's weird and I accept that. :P


message 10: by Pavel (new)

Pavel Kravchenko (pavelk) | 96 comments Silence is the best, but if it's noisy around me when I try to write (which it often is) I find a song in my itunes library and put it to play over and over again. Not anything complicated or loud usually. Trance mostly, funnily enough.


message 11: by Martyn (new)

Martyn | 299 comments Jonathan wrote: ". . . i can't do it . . . it distracts me from inhabiting the story . . ."

I'm with you, JE. Just can't do it, I find it very distracting.


message 12: by Keith (new)

Keith Dixon (keithwdixon) | 44 comments this is an urgent problem for me, because a) i live in a new york city apartment along with my wife and 2 daughters, b) i don't have the benjamins to get myself a studio, and c) listening to music while writing creates terrible problems for me, most notably that books seem to kind of peter out because i've been getting my energy from the music rather than what's on the page. my dilemma is that it's either listen to music, or listen to the cartoons my daughter is watching just a few feet from me. BUT! writers, have a look -- as an alternative i have been listening instead to the buddha box app on my ipod! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTJGxh...


message 13: by Leslie (new)

Leslie (lesliemojeiko) | 42 comments I sometimes find a song that goes perfectly with the book I'm reading. Does anyone else do that? Example, I'm reading JE's Revised Fundamentals right now and yesterday I heard "Chicago" by Sufjan Stevens on my ipod and thought that they matched together perfectly. Like maybe this song came on the radio when Ben and Trev were driving in the van. (I could be totally wrong about this match, but it worked for me)

Anyway, now one of my favorite feelings is when I stumble upon the perfect song that gives me the same feeling of the story I'm reading. As far as writing and listening to music, sometimes I find the perfect song that can help inspire the feeling of my story... but I try not to focus on it too much because I still want the story to be my own. I could never listen to it at the same time I'm writing because I'm too easily distracted!


message 14: by Steelwhisper (new)

Steelwhisper Sometimes I listen to music on repeat, usually instrumental jazz (Garbarek or Miles Davis), but I don't mind the softer vocals (Gregorian chant, Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull or Sting). Sometimes I listen to natural sounds, like waves on a shore or a thunderstorm, on repeat. And sometimes I even run a movie fitting with the background of what I write. Sound manages to centre me, I don't really hear it. It's like sitting in a busy café and writing (which I also like doing).


message 15: by Dan, deadpan man (new)

Dan | 640 comments Mod
@Leslie: I am a HUGE Sufjan fan and I didn't even think of that connection. It mages perfect sense though. Thinking a little more about itI don't often connect specific songs to books.

Sometimes I do have jazz playing at a very very low volume. But not Miles Davis. If I have Kind of Blue playing at any volume I can't focus on the reading.


message 16: by Leslie (new)

Leslie (lesliemojeiko) | 42 comments Dan wrote: "@Leslie: I am a HUGE Sufjan fan and I didn't even think of that connection. It mages perfect sense though. Thinking a little more about itI don't often connect specific songs to books.

Sometimes I..."


A while ago I was reading a book titled "Moloka'i" and at the same time I was obsessed with this song by Doug Hoyer "Oh, the Wind Will Blow" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0z1JKs...) (on a side note, I have no idea why there's an image of Lolita with this song, but I love the song... maybe someone thinks it matches perfectly with Lolita).

I felt like that song was made for that book... I never really listen to the lyrics, just the sounds I guess. Ever since, I've been obsessed with searching for the perfect song for a book I'm reading. Sometimes I'll sit around listening to a song over and over again and see if it inspires any story ideas.

Jazz and reading seems like it would be dangerously relaxing. I don't know if I'd get any reading done. hehe


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