|Posted on Sunday, September 14, 2003 - 10:37 pm: |
I've got a music question for the writers out there. And if there are any illustrators that want to answer this, then that's fine too.
What kind of music are you currently listening to and do those musical choices tie directly into your work somehow?
When I'm working on a given illustration, especially when painting, I usually work to music. I'm pretty selective about what I listen to when I'm working and I usually pick background music that will "soundtrack" or further inspire a given assignment. Most of the time, the music I'm listening to completely depends on what assignments are in front of me on a given day. And since the assignments vary, what I listen to varies pretty widely.
Is that the same with writers? If so, what kind of music are you currently listening to and to what degree does this inspire the work you're currently working on?
Thanks to Jeff Vandermeer for inspiring this question with his rock-pop-alt discussion on his board.
|Posted on Sunday, September 14, 2003 - 10:50 pm: |
Music is very, very important to me when I'm writing, both as inspiration and as a mood-setter. For example, when I'm writing a horror story I tend to play a lot of dark, heavy rock or country murder ballads. When I'm working on a lighter piece, I use a lot of classical stuff for background music.
Often, the music itself inspires stories. For example, the story I'm working on now, about a musicologist trying to track down a forgotten blues singer, was inspired by a John Lee Hooker boxed set I bought recently.
|Posted on Sunday, September 14, 2003 - 11:34 pm: |
Can't listen to anything too compelling. Best for me is reggae, that rocksteady groove helps me find a rhythm with the work. Writing for me is method-acting, so I don't need a mood-setter. The mood's stuck in my head already.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 12:40 am: |
Hey, Chris --
That's pretty cool regarding the John Lee Hooker-inspired story. I hope that comes together for you! By the way -- what are country murder ballads? I've never heard that term! But then again, I'm not a country music listener. What are some examples of those? Or maybe you just meant murder ballads in general, be they heavy rock or country?
Hey, Lucius --
Reggae, huh? No kidding. I wouldn't have imagined that. And I can totally see what you mean about the method-acting analogy. That makes complete sense to me. I can see your writing being that way.
When I'm doing a cover for a book, I always read the manuscript all the way through and during that reading time and the initial brainstorming, I generally find that I don't listen to music with words. Song lyrics seem to get in the way of me making a connection with where I'm going and laying a foundation. The only words that matter are the author's manuscript. But after the initial conceptual stages, then I tend to listen to any and everything that somehow relates to where I'm going, with words or not. Just a general observation.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 04:11 am: |
The music changes according to the story. Often a short story will be triggered by a song, or something I hear will be the perfect soundtrack for it, and I'll find myself listening to that one song over and over again until the story is finished.
But for longer works, I find I can't listen to anything with lyrics (or at least not catchy lyrics). So I listen to a lot of jazz instrumentals and classical music. Vivaldi has gotten me though a -lot- of blocked chapters and tough deadlines.
And much of time I have to work in silence (or what passes for it around here), or risk having the story's voice overwhelmed/changed by the music.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 09:46 am: |
It all depends on what I'm writing and often what I was listening to when the idea struck. Right now I'm adapting some Lansdale short stories to comic books so I'm listening to Johnny Cash. Cash is the closest thing to Lansdale when it comes to music.
Also, the time period I am writing about influences my musical choices. When I wrote "The Secret History of Weird Business", I listened to almost exclusively to early-90's Tom Petty.
The big thing is that it must be music I am intimately familiar with. I need the rhythms not the words.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 10:38 am: |
Murder ballads are a weird little subgenre of country music that can be traced back to 19th century Appalachian folk songs and continues on through the years in the work of artists like Johnny Cash and the Louvin Brothers, on up to more recent artists like Garth Brooks ("Papa Loved Mama") and the Dixie Chicks ("Goodbye Earl"). Here are some typical lyrics, from the Louvin Brothers' "Knoxville Girl":
I met a little girl in Knoxville
A town we all know well
And every sunday evening
In her home I'd dwell
We went to take an evening walk
About a mile from town
I picked a stick up off the ground
And I knocked that fair girl down
She fell down on her bended knees
For mercy she did cry
"Oh Willy, dear, don't kill me yet
I'm unprepared to die"
She never spoke another word
I only beat her more
Until the ground around me
With her blood did flow
The creepiest thing about murder ballads is that the music itself is often light-hearted and bouncy, which serves to underscore the darkness of the lyrics. A good book on the subject is Russ Dowda's APPALACHIAN WOMEN IN THE 19TH CENTURY AND THEIR IMAGE IN THE MURDER BALLADS OF THE TIME. Another good source of information would probably be the horror writer Randy Fox, who does a presentation on horror in country music every year at the World Horror Convention; I haven't managed to catch one of those presentations yet, but I hope to someday.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 10:57 am: |
Laura Anne --
I can relate to listening to the same piece of music over and over again until a work is done. I've never worked repeatedly to the same song though. Wow. I can see how a short story could be intimately tied to the memory of a song. Man. I'd go crazy. Better you than me!!
I can see the Lansdale/Cash comparison. That makes sense. I thought that was interesting that you said that it has to be music you're intimately familiar with. I'm trying to think of what I listen to when I've done Lansdale covers. Hard to categorize. Much like Lansdale. One thing's for sure -- you don't pull out the aromatherapy candles and Enya cds for the Lansdale assignments. But for the life of me, I can't think of one single cd or artist that I've listened to specifically for Lansdale. Usually aggressive stuff though....lots of attitude...
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 11:05 am: |
Just read your reply on murder ballads.
Holy crap, dude. That's very disturbing material you've got there. Man-oh-man. I'm surprised I've never heard of that subgenre. Then again -- I'm not a country music listener. Nor am I a member of the Appalachian nation.
Oh, how very shocking that those attitudes toward women originated in Appalachia!! Then again, I'm sure the women have their turn with the men, as I'm assuming is the case with the Dixie Chicks.
And I thought "Die, Die, My Darling" was a dark tune.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 11:06 am: |
Chris-- I love the Louvin Brothers. Before my wife and I got married, we had "Broadminded" on our answering machine ("Broadminded is spelled S-I-N.") I even used it as a title of an essay about graphic novels and science fiction fans.
I never did think about it but I guess I really like the murder ballads.
John-- Laughing at the thought of Lansdale and Enya...
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 11:20 am: |
Surf guitar (especially The Aqua Velvets) is my background working music of choice. Lyrics pull my attention away too much so I gotta stick with instrumentals.
I do pretty well with a football game I don't care about as background, too. The crowd, the band, even the announcers become this comforting sort of white noise for me. Weird, I guess.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 11:24 am: |
That is weird, Deborah. I'm a huge baseball fan but there is no way I could write while one is one. Too much distraction.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 11:42 am: |
Yeah, that's why it has to be a game I'm not all that into -- I told my mom recently about this, suggesting that it had roots in a childhood around sports fanatics, and she said, "Wow, that's weird. I'm really sorry..." But I figure it could be worse.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 12:39 pm: |
Rick -- if you think Cash is the closest to Lansdale, take a listen to Johnny Dowd. Might surprise you.
Deborah-- ditto on the ball game. Surf guitar.
So was the surf in Ohio?
John -- yeah, in the past I've gotten so into charcater, like when I'm writing something really dark, I tend to be an off-putting kind of guy. I'll say dialogue out loud and practice murderous laughs. Weird. But reggae, I love reggae and dub, It creates a nice reverb space in my head.
Nick Cave has a nice Murder Ballad album.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 01:46 pm: |
No surf in Cleveland, alas. All we had was our dreams and a burning river...
And, Rick, ditto Lucius' recommendation of Johnny Dowd.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 02:02 pm: |
The 80-minute bonus disk on The Church's Hologram of Baal is great to write to. Nick Cave's live album is great for a rush of energy. Tindersticks--nice and moody. Dead Can Dance for atmosphere.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 02:31 pm: |
Lucius threw out a recommendation a couple of weeks ago for a band called Cafe Tacuba and I plan to go hunt down that cd sometime very soon. Looks like I've got a few more cds to check out, thanks to y'all. Very cool.
Hey, Deborah -- that's funny that you mention football as working background noise. I have a cable TV connection here in my studio that's ready to go as soon as I hook up a TV to it. But so far I haven't done it. I've been toying with the notion so I can keep tabs on the upcoming football and basketball seasons while I'm working on my work.
I'm pretty disciplined, but I'm afraid it could be a recipe for disaster. Having ESPN right where I work might be the downfall of my upstart illustration career. So for now, it's probably better to just keep things segregated and just check the scores and leave the TV-watching for the living room. We'll see!
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 02:33 pm: |
The country gothic duo THE HANDSOME FAMILY I also think of as drawing inspiration from the murder ballad and the darker roots of country music. They do some good stuff.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 05:55 pm: |
i try to listen to music without words, or with very few.
so bands like godspeed you black emperor, set fire to flames, a silver mt zion, and the such are my current go. there are others, too, but these are my favourite since their is an element of urban decay around much of their work, and that taps right into my current work.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 06:50 pm: |
Hey, Ben --
That was pretty cool....the way you listed all those bands...it looks like a line of indecipherable Surrealist poetry or automatic writing....
"godspeed you black emperor
set fire to flames
a silver mt zion
and the such"
I like it.
Who do you think you are? Andre Breton?
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 07:06 pm: |
The Handsome Family, huh? I'll have to check that out...
You guys are exposing me to the seedy underbelly of the country music world....worth a try....gotta be better than the typical Nashville garbage...
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 07:38 pm: |
Although they don't do murder ballads per se, there's a great Gothic country band called Sixteen Horsepower that uses dark religious imagery to good effect. My favorite song of theirs is "Praying Arm Lane" from their album THE SECRET SOUTH.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 07:40 pm: |
When I'm writing, it's purely modern classical: Kronos, Cage, Part, Riley, etc. I need atonal instrumental music when I'm writing, it just makes something in my brain click, like someone is taking the writing brake off and my writing car is in neutral facing the down slope at the top of a hill.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 07:58 pm: |
John: I always write to the same Harold Budd CD's. either The Pavillion of Dreams or The White Room or The Pearl. When I work on a book, I pick one of them and then just play it over and over. When I get home from teaching at night and sit down to work, all I have to do is turn on the music and the story comes back to me. One day I was working on the novel i am presently writing, and when i was done, I realized that my cd player had come unplugged. It didn't matter, I remembered hearing the music anyway while I was writing. Pavlov's writer.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 08:38 pm: |
Add Sixteen Horsepower to the list. Man, this whole Gothic country is a veritable cottage industry! Wow.
Forrest -- Man, I'm with you on Arvo Part. The first book I ever illustrated was Michael Moorcock's BEHOLD THE MAN: THE 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION and I listened to Arvo Part's "Te Deum" cd throughout that process.
Heck, tonight I'm going to brainstorm this illustration about a grave site for TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE MAGAZINE and in fact, now that you've mentioned it, that Arvo cd is probably as a choice as any to kick off that illustration. Thanks, man.
Hey, Jeff....who the heck's Harold Budd?? Man, if you dig that guy so much that he's in your cd player that much, I need to check this guy out ASAP.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 08:46 pm: |
Godspeed You! Black Emperor is the only thing I can really listen to while writing.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 09:12 pm: |
John: Budd is head music. You can't dance to it, unless you dance really slowly. You can't tap your foot to it, but you can definitely daydream to it and write to it. Check it out.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 09:39 pm: |
To the murder ballad thing, you might want to check out Jon Langford (Brit scfi guy David Langford's brother) and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts. In particular, the antho albums Langford did to protest the death penalty. Steve Earle's version of "Tom Dooley" is fucking amazing...
Langford's regular band, The Mekons, is, of course, one of the great enduring rock bands of the last fifteen years.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 10:51 pm: |
Huh, I didn't know that he was David Langford's brother. I love those EXECUTIONER'S LAST SONGS albums.
|Posted on Monday, September 15, 2003 - 11:06 pm: |
Yup, Chris, Jon and David are sibs. Though Jon spends most of his time in Chicago these days. He's also a hell of an artist.
I pretty much every Langford project, especially the executioner albums, the Waco Brothers, and his solo album, The Bone Orchard.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 05:00 am: |
yeah, they're nice band titles, aren't they. the reason for their similarity, in some way, is not me or my marvelous andre breton impersonation (you should see me pretend to be a andre breton lampshade at parties ;)) is because a lot of the people who are in godspeed, have spun out into other side bands such as a silver mt zion and set fire to flames, among others.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 09:24 am: |
Budd collaborated with the Cocteau Twins on an album called THE MOON AND THE MELODIES which I like a lot. Also his ambient collaboration with Brian Eno, THE PLATEAUX OF MIRROR. But frankly, Budd's about as ambient as I can stomach -- anything beyond that is just New Age.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 11:49 am: |
The Moon and the Melodies is just great. I'll have to go have another listen to it.
(And also check out the gybe! spin-off bands, of course. I had no idea. . . .)
|Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 01:46 pm: |
>>Lucius threw out a recommendation a couple of weeks ago for a band called Cafe Tacuba and I plan to go hunt down that cd sometime very soon.
Well, they have a few of them. I'd pass on their latest, CUATRO CAMINOS, which I got recently and where they seem to have adopted a very mainstream sound. It was kinda disappointing.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 02:02 pm: |
Have to second or third that HANDSOME FAMILY recommendation. Great stuff.
|Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 07:08 pm: |
My Cafe Tacuba recs were for RE and GRAN EXITOS.
I just saw them live in Seattle and those albums reflect their live sound.