I often listen to music while working on stories and novels. Listening to music can mask distracting noises from the outside world. It can also help propel the rhythm of a piece of writing. But the music has to be carefully chosen.
Lyrics can be a problem. I find writing while listening to someone else’s words as difficult as doing mental arithmetic in a room full of people shouting out random numbers. I find myself singing along instead of coming up with my own sentences. A catchy beat can have the same effect. Therefore, instrumental music works best for me. I find film soundtracks especially useful, and often listen to the following CDs because they manage to be both atmospheric and dramatic without being too distracting. I find Blade Runner particularly good for “setting the mood” when writing science fiction.
My regular writing playlist also includes albums of classical music, jazz and electronia. Placed on random shuffle, they seem to keep the critical side of my brain occupied, allowing the creative side to run riot over the keyboard. In addition, these albums complement each other rather well, and random shuffle throws up unexpected similarities and resonances between seemingly unrelated tracks.
In no particular order, my “writing” playlist includes:
- Blade Runner by Vangelis. The classic electronic score to one of the all-time great science fiction movies. Curiously nostalgic and futuristic all at the same time. I have the three CD version, with all the extra music they put out for the film’s 25th anniversary.
- Music For Airports and Apollo by Brian Eno. Two great albums from the master of ambient music.
- Moon by Clint Mansell. A superb soundtrack to an interesting film.
- Glassworks and In The Upper Room by Philip Glass. Experimental music with a hypnotic vibe.
- Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis. The kind of music that makes me imagine neon bar signs reflecting off rain-slicked pavements, and yellow cabs cutting past in the darkness.
- The Social Network by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – ambient electronica with a dark, scuzzy edge, and plenty of homages to work by Eno and others.
Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what works for you?