My first inclination when I'm writing is to put on classic jazz: Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, etc. There is an energy and rhythm to the music that carries my thoughts and allows me to explore interesting side paths without becoming distracted from the main event. Most of the music from these giants is instrumental -- something that helps as well. I can get distracted by an interesting riff, but I'm not going to get caught up singing along like I might if I was listening to the latest pop song. It works.
Then, there are the days when I want and need something different. I don't know what I'm writing as well. I'm frustrated with it. I want to get distracted by lyrics in the hope I might be inspired and find what I'm looking for in my own thought processes. Then, I turn to the indie rock greats. Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, Josh Ritter, Josh Rouse, Gary Jules. These guys are always surprising me, always challenging me to think bigger, be weirder, try something new. And it infuses my writing.
I wish it didn't seem like my playlist is an all-male cast, but it seems it is. Perhaps that speaks of the dominance of male influence on the music industry for so many years. Perhaps it speaks to my own male ego and hidden (or not so hidden) sexist tendencies. Or maybe these artists just resonate with the inner workings of my own creative instincts and it's all just a coincidence. I don't feel like thinking about it anymore; I'll leave the analysis to the internet and my shrink. The artists above are all damn good and while listening to them, I can pretend I'm just as good a writer.
Silence? Music? Questions I ask myself every time I sit down to write. My different moods and my story’s different scenes require an assortment of sounds or lack there of. Some days my scenes need a kick in the butt to maintain the speed and intensity, so I play The Mars Volta (De-Loused In The Comatorium), Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Show Your Bones), The Used (Lies for the Liars), Halestorm (Halestorm), and The Distillers (Coral Fang). Then days when my characters experience powerful emotional scenes/moments, The Deftones (Diamond Eyes), NIN (The Fragile Left), and Placebo (Meds) help me get into the zone. And for the days when I need music to focus but lyrics are too distracting, I opt for classical (Tchiakovsky & Holst), movie score soundtracks (The Matrix & Harry Potter), and Enya (A Day Without Rain), although there are lyrics on this album, her voice blends in with the instrumental parts. Of course, there’s many more than this small sampling. These just tend to be my tried and true tunes.
I need music to write. The first thing I do is put on Pandora, or iTunes, or whatever is fueling my writing at the moment. While writing BOOKEND, I listened to Mumford & Sons, Fleet Foxes and the first twilight score until I should, by rights, have been sick of them. On Pandora I have a Joy Division station - sounds depressing I know, but it pulls up some great bands and songs that I don't have on my iTunes - early Bowie, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie. If I have a muse at all, it's music.
For FIND ME, I'm trying something a little different, creating playlists for my characters. So far on Mop's iPod is: Sharon Van Ettan, TV on the Radio, Felt and Kristen Hersh.
So do you write with music? Do you need silence or white noise? What do you listen to when you are writing?