I love music. I like listening to it and I love writing to it. Music is very powerful for me. It has the ability to quickly transport me from one emotional state to another. While sometimes annoying if I have no control over the music, this ability becomes a very useful tool when I can choose the music during my writing sessions.
While I have known other people who prefer to use popular lyrical music while they write, I do not. I actually prefer to write while listening to orchestral music. The reason for this is simple; lyrical music distracts me. Sometimes lyrical music is a great tool for brainstorming because thinking about the images conjured by a song’s lyrics can help me think up a scene. Red’s “Love Will Leave a Mark” is the most recent example of this. Most of the time, however, I find myself doing more singing along with the song lyrics than actually writing the story when I listen to a lyrical song.
When I write, my music of choice is movie and game soundtrack music. Despite the fact that most of the soundtrack music I use is actually created and recorded by a conducted orchestra, I pick soundtrack music over actual classical music because soundtrack music is written in such a way that it provokes a very specific emotional tone. Often times I will pick a particular soundtrack song and play it over and over again while I craft a certain scene so that the emotions prompted from the music bleed into every corner of my writing. This is a great shortcut that I can use to go where my characters are emotionally very quickly. Living the scene with my characters is very important to me because it helps me know how the characters would respond in a given situation. The right emotions can help a scene flow together with the rest of the story’s plot. The wrong emotions can derail a scene and crash the story headlong into writer’s block.
While I have several regular composer companions, the ones I recommend the most are: Jeremy Soule, Harry Gregson-Williams, John Williams, and Hans Zimmer. Jeremy Soule is responsible for composing the sweeping, epic music found in the “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” soundtrack and the “Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” soundtrack. I currently listen to his scores more than any other because of the wide range of mood music found in the two soundtracks (over 70 songs). As far as movie soundtracks are concerned, Harry Gregson-Williams’ “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe”, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian”, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, “Enemy of the State”, and “Spy Game” soundtracks see a lot of play at my writing desk. To add magic and mystery to my scenes, I listen to the “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, “Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban”, “Hook”, and “Memoirs of a Geisha” soundtracks by John Williams. Finally Hans Zimmer’s “Batman Begins”, “The Dark Knight”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, and “King Arthur” soundtracks help to shape some of my bleakest scenes while some of my lighter, high adventure scenes find voice through songs from “The Holiday”, and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”.
My work also benefits from the occasional soundtrack influences of Nick Arundel’s “Arkham City”, Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”, Tyler Bates’ “300”, Greg Edmonson’s “Firefly”, George Fenton’s “Planet Earth”, Christopher Gordon’s “Master and Commander”, James Horner’s “Avatar”, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek’s “Finding Neverland”, Dario Marianelli’s “Pride and Prejudice”, Thomas Newman’s “Wall-E” and “Finding Nemo”, Martin O’Donnell’s and Michael Salvatori’s “Halo 2”, John Powell’s “How to Train Your Dragon”, Johan Skugge and Jukka Rintamaki “Battlefield 3”, and Alan Silvestri’s “Terminator Salvation”.
Not everyone benefits from writing while listening to soundtrack music, but I certainly do. What are your favorite writing tunes?
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