Music can influence us in so many ways, can’t it? It sets the mood around us wherever we are, like restaurants and gyms, playing soft and romantic for eating or rhythmic and robust to get our blood pumping. It makes us remember certain eras and events like proms or graduations. It can make us excited or bring us to tears, reminding us of the specific times we’ve shared with people. Whatever the situation, music is in our lives whether we want it to be or not.
All kinds of music have been in my life from the moment my mother first held me in her arms. I began singing and performing on stage at a very young age. I’ve always loved music and I even had my first record player at age four, a Fisher Price one that I played kid records. I loved that thing and there wasn’t a time where I couldn’t be found dancing all around my room or jumping on my bed to Disney songs or The Sound of Music. Even as my sisters and I grew, music was always playing at our house. My dad would set a soundtrack for dinner every night as we sat at the dining room table. It was always some soft, melodic tape or later CD, like Phil Driscoll or Kenny G. My mother would play her favorites while she cooked, cleaned or created her artwork. We listened to everything from Neil Diamond and Kenny Rogers to Gladys Knight and the Pips and Debby Boone. And Christian artists like Sandi Patty, Carmen, the Gaithers and Amy Grant. The classics were a big part of our life too. My mother was a show singer in madrigals so we knew all the operas and musicals as well.
Music fits into my professional life as well. Being that I write historical fictions, one of the first things I do when I start creating a story is build a playlist of music from that era and play it while I’m writing. In the case of Beneath the Wall, I play songs from the 1960s, especially the more Vietnam era musicians like Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Lynyrd Skynyrd & Buffalo Springfield. One song in particular, For What Its Worth, played continuous while I was writing scenes where the troops were stalking through the jungle or patrolling the territory. For some reason that song really helped me feel those kinds of scenes. The bass drum set the tempo like footfalls on a march. The high pitch sounds of the wavy guitar being plucked creates a really hot, irritating atmosphere as if being surrounded by heat and humidity. Add in the lyrics and it’s telling a story about a soldier being scared and paranoia all around. I just love it. It sets a such a mood. I’d turn it way up and just live in the jungles of Vietnam with the Marines surrounding me. In fact, as I was writing this blog, I had on Maroon 5, an easy playlist to have as white noise, but I was getting no where until I switched over to Buffalo Springfield’s song and once again I could go to the place my mind needed to be to describe that song for you.
Same with The Blue Lute, there are two eras represented in this story, 2001 and 1928. I jumped around from songs I listened to in college to old jazz songs. But when Part II of the book up to write, I needed a feel of both of the eras mixed together. (Don’t worry, I won’t give it away). So I found this wonderful album by Christina Aguilera. It was called Back to Basics and in it Christina mixes the more modern sound of music with the horns, a plucked stand-up bass, and muted microphone of the 1920s. If you haven’t heard it already it sounds a lot like the kind of smoldering music one would have heard at a sultry lounge club. Oh I loved it! Save Me From Myself is one of the best songs that captures this dual era feel.
The other day I had just passed a significant era change in my newest work-in-progress Separated Souls – the 1970s and what was the first thing I did… download a whole bunch of 70s music to it’s own playlist. I have the Carpenters, Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Abba, Billy Joel, The Bee Gees and Captain & Tennille. In all honesty, this isn’t my favorite era for music, but we’ll see what song comes to the surface as I write about the story of Maggie Charles and Sam Phillips.
For authors and readers a like… I’m sure you also have some musical accompaniment to your writing or reading… what are some of your musical influences that effect your work?