November 21, 2007

I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time fiddling with music while I write. Finding the right music is a very important part of the process, like having coffee before I start. It gets me in the mood and creates an atmosphere that cuts me off from everything but the world I’m in when I write.

The music needs to have an inner propulsion that gets me energized and at the same time it has to be something I don’t consciously have to pay attention to: anything with too many English lyrics or track changes is a distraction. For that reason, if it’s pop music, I prefer something with a dance beat and a seamless transition from track to track. For the most part, however, I prefer music with no vocals.

There are exceptions, of course. I very often get in an opera mood and plunk down an old Maria Callas set. There’s such tremendous energy in her performances that I find the writing just flies out of my pen (erm, keyboard, yeah?) And because the lyrics aren't in English, I don’t stop to listen to the words. I wrote most of the second Bradford Fairfax book, Death In Key West, while listening to Callas. It was particularly suiting because one of the main characters is a counter tenor who sings in drag. I later dedicated the book to her memory.

Lately I’ve discovered Internet Radio and have been hooked on two stations: the sky.fm Modern Jazz station, and Beatles-A-Rama. The jazz is perfect because it’s got such a dense harmonic texture, but no vocals, and I feel cushioned by the sound. The Beatles station takes some adjusting to, however, because it has station breaks and spoken segments as part of each broadcast. At times the music is too catchy and I find myself stopping to listen rather than writing, but I enjoy it all the same and when it gets too distracting I turn on the Modern jazz station for a break.

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