Saturday, April 23, 2016

Quickies: For The Other Writers In The Audience

     Perhaps you’re familiar with the relatively recent phenomenon of authors putting playlists at the ends of their novels. Sometimes they’re presented as a notional soundtrack to the action of the book. Sometimes those lists of tunes are simply what they were listening to while they wrote. The latter case has always struck me funny, because I can’t listen to music while writing. I can’t deny it my attention, which of course deprives the story on the drawing board of the attention it requires.

     It’s a bit of a handicap, for two reasons. First is my tinnitus, which can be as obtrusive as anything audible. The second is that playing music helps to shut out other background noise that can be just as distracting. Anyone who shares his home with children or animals, or who lives in a busy area, will know how annoying those background noises can be.

     However, I may have made an important discovery: the genuine soundtrack, which is entirely without vocals and usually designed merely to enhance the emotional impact of the action on the movie screen. I’ve tried playing one of those as I wrote this morning, and not only was it not distracting, it served admirably to blot out the noises from the regiment of plumbers laboring over my pipes, the groundskeepers mowing my front yard, and the gentleman I’d engaged to power-wash the house.

     Here’s the first one: the soundtrack to The Bourne Identity:

     The second of the soundtracks I played this morning wasn’t for a “real” movie but for a video game: Tomb Raider: A Survivor Is Born:

     They worked excellently well for me, providing coverage for the background noise (and my tinnitus) while allowing me to concentrate on my prose. If not being able to play music as you write has been a problem for you, try the above and let me know about the results.


  1. Any music with vocals is telling a specific story (the one in the lyrics). It's not possible, at least for me, to listen to one story while trying to create another. Non-vocal music, however, allows you to apply it to whatever plotline you are putting together. It adds rather than subtracts.

    Personally, I like to use classical music. The 4th movement of Beethoven's Ninth doesn't bother me because I don't speak German!

  2. I have found the same thing with my computer programming. As I get older I find I cannot have music with words going because it disrupts my thought patterns while trying to code.
    Instrumental music works best for me as well, but not too exciting or I get caught up in that as well!

  3. Music is generally too distracting to listen to while I am translating. An exception is the Ohio Players, and another is sitar music.

  4. I tend to like NO music - same problem - tinitus, but also a disinclination to clutter my mind with noise.

    I find that opening a window (or, even better, going outside to sit in the sun) works well, the sounds of nature are soothing. Doesn't work at school - the kids don't know how to be quiet.

  5. I have the classical station on when I am writing - and it goes for me like a kind of audio wallpaper. In the background, not especially obtrusive.

  6. Malatrope, Celia: I tried classical music, but I tend to pay it too much attention. I get drawn in by the development of the themes. That's why I like soundtracks: They tend to be simplistic, repetitive. They demand approximately nothing.

  7. I guess I'm like most of you... quiet while actually putting the words down, if I'm creating. Editing, I like to have classical guitar. Prefer something I don't really know or that has no pronounced rhythm. Choices are Isben, Anna V., Breams and the like. I like Christopher Parkening too much to not listen more closely to his 'feeling'...
    But some music inspires me when expanding an idea. Like, I could listen to Lisa Kelly sing "Caledonia" once and ideas would flow too fast to capture. As to Bourne as background, could never work... loved all three of the movies too much. Liked all of Ludlum's books. Am frustrated with Matt Damon, but no one else I know could play the part of Jason as well as he.

  8. I've used piano music from the "classical" era, e.g. Haydn, played at low volumes to camouflage neighborhood noises when I work. Bach is too intricate, and Beethoven and later too insistent. Recently I've been experimenting with varieties of white noise, which is even less distracting and for which online generators are available. "Grey" noise works best for cancelling out the boombox on the corner.


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