Friday, January 29, 2010

Songs on a Theme

Great question for the ladies over at Let the Words Flow about theme songs for their finished projects or works-in-progress. As it's a topic I've been thinking about too, seeing their responses spurred me to muse a bit on my own about the subject of novels' theme songs and songs that inspire writing. It seems that many writers are influenced by music--have it playing while they write, are inspired by certain songs, find themselves constructing soundtracks to their manuscritps. I guess I'm typical--there are pieces that are integral to both novels I've been plugging away at.

First, project one, which is revised within an inch of its life and in the process of querying its little heart out, Linden Hall. Given that it's eighteenth-century, the music I had running through my head was mainly classical, and in fact mostly earlier than the time period (for some reason, the setting seemed a bit caught in time even though it was already in the past). Geek moment--after handbell rehearsal every Thursday during draft phase, I was going to work at a local coffeeshop, and there was an early music program on public radio at the same time--chant and plainsong through baroque. So this was feeding me every week, which might account for part of the association.

If there's a single theme song to this, though, it would have be the Adagio from Corelli's Christmas Concerto, which makes an appearance in the book. In my head, it isn't the Adagio you'd find in a music score--it's the version that was arranged for my wedding three years ago. By "arranged," I mean that I crossed out about twenty measures in the middle with a dull pencil at the rehearsal and our incredible pianist, a dear friend, pulled something together for him and our violinist (the piece is for strings, not piano and violin, but it sounded amazing under his manipulation!). It's similar to the version heard in Master and Commander.

Other pieces that ran through my head often while working--Rorate and Breton Carol. For some reason, yes, they are all Christmas pieces. No, I don' t know why.

For the work in progress, there's a more definite theme song--it's the same as the title as the WIP, December, sung by Kay Starr. A 1950s Christmas number (I have an excuse this time--the story is set during, well, December), it really captured the lost, homesick ken I was aiming for with the story, set in post-WWII Chicago. Even though the piece is a bit late, I imagine it on the radio in the background. Other pieces that surface in the story itself: "(That's why they call me) Shine" (I have a fondness for the Django Reinhardt version with vocalist Freddy Taylor), "The Swan" from Carnival of Animals by Saint-Saens, and Satie's Gymnopaedies.

If you're a writer, does music inspire or make cameos in your work? What's your WIP's relationship with music? As a reader, how do you see the connection between music and prose?

Completely unrelated--but drop in at the Giveaway post, let me know you're here, and get entered to win books.


Alexandra said...

I think it's really funny that a lot of your songs are Christmas songs.

I love listening to classical music, because it's such a vast genre, and if you find the right piece, it goes well with anything :)

Kathleen Wall said...

I've had this topic on my list of things to blog about, but I haven't gotten there yet.

I can't write to classical. I suspect this is because I am writing young adult, so I need music with angst. Or maybe I just need a driving rhythm to give me the energy to write. I listen to rock, pop, alternative... I was writing a medieval historical and thought I should listen to some medieval music, which I actually enjoy. I couldn't write to it :(

Rowenna said...

Hi Alexandra--I know. I have no logical explanation...even though I do really like "normal" Christmas music these are so off the beaten track even that doesn't explain it!

Kathleen--I can see how classical might not quite capture the characters you're creating...though Satie has always struck me as quite angsty haha! I actually rarely listen and write--it's usually separate but the music kind of informs/inspires what I write in a way. Let me know when you post!

Anyone get too distracted actually listening to music to write to it? I'm such a geek, this happens to me most with classical :P