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The Sound of Music

Nov 19,2012
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Music plays a key role in the process of many writers. I’ve blogged before about what songs inspired the writing of Vanguard Prime: Goldrush, but given how wide-ranging a topic music and its role in the creative process is, I thought I'd open up the discussion here on Inside a Dog.

As much as music by artists like Muse, David Bowie, Kanye West, Bjork and the Smashing Pumpkins drive my imagination, I can often find it distracting to listen to songs containing vocals when writing. So what do you do if you want musical accompaniment without a singer interrupting your thought process?

Well, I break out orchestral movie soundtracks, that’s what! This can be tricky in itself, though. Certain movies have very iconic soundtracks – Star Wars, Lord of the Rings – that leave me picturing nothing but scenes from those movies. If you go too far in the other direction, however, and pick something really generic, then it just becomes background noise. You want something that spurs your imagination but doesn’t overwhelm it with whatever the soundtrack is associated with.

This varies for everybody, of course. Personally, I have a few ‘go to’ composers/soundtracks. The first would be Daft Punk’s score for Tron: Legacy. It’s a perfect blend of epic, orchestral grandeur and dark, synthetic beats.

From there, I’d go on to recommend the work of Ben Foster and Murray Gold. They’ve been working in tandem together the past few years on the music for both Doctor Who and Torchwood, providing the kind of incredible scope you’d expect of a blockbuster film, rather than a weekly TV series. I saw Ben Foster perform the music from Doctor Who live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra – yes, I’m that geeky – and it was staggering.

Yoko Kanno is a Japanese composer who works primarily in anime, and her soundtracks for Cowboy Bebop and Macross Plus demonstrate a musical versatility that other performers would be rightly jealous of. For years, I had her music on the same playlist that featured Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós, and the two have become forevermore blurred together in my brain.

Finally, Two Steps from Hell is a band I’d highly recommend, even though they aren’t a band. Instead, they’re a company that produces music for movie trailers, with their songs being used in previews for everything from Harry Potter to The Dark Knight. As a result, they’ve produced a huge catalogue of music, covering almost every mood and style you can think of.

So now that you’ve gotten this insight into what makes up my writing playlist, I’d like to turn the question on you guys. What music do you play when writing? And on the other hand, is there music you listen to when reading? Let us know in the comments section below!

Nov 28,2012
anonymous's picture
Music definitely triggers the imagination and i believe it is great inspiration for writing. I agree that music and writing go hand in hand as they both complement each other.
Nov 28,2012
I love to read and listen to music. It doesn’t distract me and it makes me feel very relaxed.
Nov 21,2012
Totally agree with you on the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, though I do find that it's one of the soundtracks that I associate a little too much with the film it comes from. I'd never heard the TITANIUM cover before. There's nothing quite like an orchestral version of a favourite song! I also can't agree enough about songs inspiring writing. In fact, I posted a blog about what songs inspired scenes in my book;
Nov 19,2012
I don't know ANYONE who reads and listens to music. I'd find it rather impressive if someone could do both and appreciate them at the same time. As for writing music, I totally second you on the orchestral musicky stuff (: I think the Pirates of the Caribbean theme is the best ever, because, as somebody once said to me, it makes everything epic. Somehow. Even if your character is just eating breakfast, writing to that music would make it feel like a grand adventure ^^ But yeah, some get me too visual on the movies themselves. While I do have the Harry Potter theme, I can't listen to it and write. All I want to do is go read the books and watch the movies or start screeching random spells :P But I'd like to share what I think is one of the BEST instrumentals EVER, and it really has a powerful vibe to it - dunno if it helps with writing, but I consider it my other battle song when I need to get myself to do something. Lo and behold, a cover of David Guetta's TITANIUM: (Of course, it would really be awesome if it just automatically started playing after you read the word TITANIUM... so dramatically perfect) AND... okay, this comment is getting superdy long, but sometimes I find that a song inspires a story - a song with vocals, that is. And when it does, I find myself listening to it on repeat while I write it. They kinda just complement each other ^^

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