Sally Cooper asked a great question on her blog: “What music inspires you to write?” Here’s what I think.
I’m always looking for new music to write with…I’m usually listening to minimalistic stuff (Riley, Reich, Cage, Feldman), or to new classical music. these last few days, it’s been Alfred Schnittke‘s complete string quartets (played by kronos quartet) which have me all but hypnotized; it’s also been Michael Finnissy‘s “Lost Lands” (played by topologies). A hundred years ago, I studied composition with Finnissy & I still hear his actual voice and see him move around the piano when I listen to this. (He’s like his music: most gentle, witty, immensely informed.) It influences my writing in ways much deeper than I care to know. When my students ask about what music I like I ask them to imagine cats being tortured & that it’s not a pretty sound. They invariably say “Aww, surely you’re joking” but when I play them a sample, they realize I wasn’t.
This is for fiction. For non-fiction like this, I listen to more digestible music, like Regina Spektor, or I let P J Harvey shake me. Another recent discovery is Martin Grubinger’s “drums ‘n chants“: jazz & gregorian chant sung by Benedictine monks. Modern jazz is usually not my thing but…there’s always been moondog — about whom i’ve written a story now shown at Fictionaut — who blends jazz & voices & god knows what he heard through his viking helmet. Good man, I love him and all he stands for, a splendid freedom, from a great distance.
For some reason, there’s no serious writer story about the serious writer and his music. But there’s no one on “The Serious Writer And His Hamster” at Pure Slush. It’s musical in a spherical kind of way (on the orb of creation, all paths cross eventually: sound, touch, smell…).
So what on your turntable? Which sounds keep your wheels spinning (if any)?
[the illustration above is a score by michael finnissy (from: english country tunes – one of the hardest pieces written for piano that i know, here performed by the composer) that suggests some of what’s hanging in the air when i listen to this while writing. it’s not harmless, nor is it easy to dance to. the score, like the music, has got so much texture, it’s a little like standing in the middle of a traffic island, which may be my ideal place to write. sometimes it gets tiresome, then i will switch the music of altogether.]