Music and Writing
I’ve recently learned a lot of respect for music and those who make it… I’ve always loved music, but being something that I always have access to, I took it for granted. You look confused, let me explain…
When researching for Under The Gods’ Golden Cleats, I was struck with a moment that took place in the Iliad. Achilles has quit the war and was hold up in his tent when Odysseus and Diomedes come and try to convince him to come back and fight for the Greeks. What struck me was that when they enter Achilles’ tent, he is sitting and playing the lute. Homer of course mentions how flawless his performance is (Achilles is good at everything), and Achilles makes them wait until he is through playing before he lets them speak to him. This was a scene that I wanted to share in my retelling of Achilles’ legend. I thought it also fit well within the new twist I was putting on things; he could play a guitar and sing a country song since the play is set in this mashed up world of Texas and ancient Troy. So when Odysseus comes with his plea, Achilles is playing an amazing and beautiful country song. I also wanted the song to be a love song for Patrolcus, with the undertones being… After I die, I don’t want you to love any one else. Brilliant, right? I thought so… And then I set out to try and write it. Writing lyrics is hard times. The song has to be good, because Achilles is good at everything, right? So I was in a pickle. I wrote many versions of the song, they were all crap. I listened to a ton of country love songs and tried to switch around lyrics and alter it to my needs, total crap. Crap, crap, crap. Then a light bulb went off and I asked my brother-in-law Thomas Kessinger, who also happens to be a fantastic musician, for help. Help turned into me telling him what I wanted and him writing it for me… And when he gave me his version of the song, I was blown away. I have listened to it a lot since then. It’s so beautiful, and sad, and really clever, and it holds up to the very high standards I hold for Achilles and his talents. So thank the Gods I have talented friends to call on.
That’s what I mean when I take music for granted. I had no idea how hard it was to create music, I thought that since I write other things, I could write a song… And yes, I think that given a whole lot of time and tears I could write a decent song… But I don’t have the drive to, so I’m not sure it would ever be as good as something I could get from an artist that lives and breathes music.
I got to thinking about all of this today because I was working on cheers and listening to Yo-Yo Ma. I almost always listen to music when I write, it helps me drown out the outside world, and also sometimes puts me into my writing mood. I have different types of music that I have to listen to depending on where I am in the piece I’m writing (i.e. first draft, rewrites, etc.) or what I’m writing. When working on those cheers I can’t listen to anything with lyrics, and when writing sadder scenes, especially those with Patroclus and Achilles, I have a few depressing albums that I’ve listened to at least a thousand times that help me get into it. There are also songs that I glom onto when writing, when in rewrites for The Fantasy Club, I listened to “Tigerlily” by La Roux over and over… It helped me think about obsession I suppose. And now with Under The Gods’ Golden Cleats I’ve taken over “Madness” by Muse to be Achilles and Patroclus’ song, it came on the radio when I was driving to pick up my kids after I’d written the scene in which Patroclus dies… I had to pull over and stop the car I cried so hard.
Anyway, my long point… Music is pretty incredible, and I thank it now for all of the help and support it gives me.
Do you have music you listen to while writing? What’s your jam?