Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Whatever gets you through the night...

by Josh

The imgresfirst cassette tape I ever bought with my own allowance money ($1 a week if - and only if - I did all my chores) was INXS's Kick. The second cassette tape I ever bought was Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Volumes 1 &2. These were my musical tastes at a child, and if you scoff, I'll sic Brenda and Eddie on you faster than you can say "live, baby, live."

imgresAnyway, like every other safety-negligent preteen in the suburbs, I would listen to my portable cassette player while biking. And I did a lot of biking. The Long Island/Australian soundtracks to these journeys became the soundtracks to my concurrent imaginings (because God knows my mind was not actually focused on the road) and I believe this was the first connection my brain made between music and creativity (and has led to my theory that dreams can unspool).

As I grew up, my musical tastes became vastly more eccentric and eclectic. I spent my teenage years working at a music store and became exposed to genres and artists I never would have otherwise discovered. Soundtracks to bike trips segued into soundtracks to car trips. I never traveled to school, to the bookstore, to anywhere without a box full of tunes (many of them mix-tapes). I never traveled with the stereo off and couldn't understand anyone who imgresdid. I ask you, which would you rather do: carry on a conversation about highway construction or bask in the genius of Bobby McFerrin's Circle Songs or Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espanol or the Velvet Underground's self-titled debut album?

OK, maybe I can be a little anti-social. Looks like I picked the correct profession, though, right?

But I know, I know. I haven't really answered the question of the week. Does my love of music, my need to be immersed in it as often as possible, does this influence my writing or does it only influence my ADD? Both, I think. Paradoxically, the only time that I cannot listen to music is when I'm writing. The rhythms influence and overtake mine. The lyrics infest my sentences.

I can't even listen to classical music when I write because I just become too distracted by the music's sublimity. Just as I'm loathe to make small talk in the presence of a great rock song, I'm equally at loss when it comes to scribbling my jejune figments against the backdrop of a mighty aria. I mean, I'm all for contrapuntal collage, but yeesh.

Esme Stuart, the peculiar protagonist in my upcoming series from MIRA, actually has very specific songs which she relies upon, acoustic assistants (if you will) to her problem-solving subconscious. Esme's musical passions tend toward the British alternative and her novels are littered with references to the songs of David Bowie, The Smiths, etc. Even though she and I disagree on a few bands (she, alas, prefers Oasis to Blur), these bands and their choice tracks seem to help her deal with the mounting stress of judgmental neighbors, a crumbling marriage, and a serial killer who has begun to set his sniper sights on her.


Yeah, I just pimped my own novel. I hope that's OK. If not, I've still got Brenda and Eddie on mp3 and they're not sleeping 'cause something about you makes them sweat.


susan said...

I must have music on most of the time. I go in moods but have to say I love the oldies and music my CCR, Eagles and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition who many won't even know about. I think music can calm you or excite you at the same time. LET THE MUSIC PLAY. SUSAN L.

Terry Stonecrop said...

I was a music addict in my school days too. But I guess it doesn't work for everyone in their writing.

Your novel sounds good BTW. I'll have to start reading more female protagonists. I tend to read men.

Pimp away. I think writers are expected to do that. I was just reading it may be a bigger part of the job that writing. Bummer.

Sophie Littlefield said...

yeah, classical's a trick for me, too. I played cello pretty seriously all through high school and have played most of the standard repertoire so it's all a little too familiar somehow - in fact, when i quit playing i pretty much quit listening to all classical music. now, though, my kids - who are in high school symphonic band - are playing a lot more contemporary stuff, and that's interesting to me. still, i almost never choose it for writing music - unless i get hooked on a particular piece for a while...a few months ago i was playing kol nidri over and over...

Shane Gericke said...

Very nice blog, Josh. And pimping one's own novel is a cherished tradition that we avoid at our peril, so by all means, yes.

And Sophie, kol nidre is kewl. Especially the version with the fun organ tweaks and the cantor who hits the high notes till my ears squeak.

Kelli Stanley said...

Josh, you and Esme are both fascinating. I can't wait to read your book!!

And you can tell Brend(er) and Eddie to go blow--they had it already by the summer of '75, anyway.

The real question: bottle of red or bottle of white? ;)