Thursday, April 29, 2010

Music and Writing

I sometimes think I am uncool in that I cannot listen to music while I'm writing. So many people I know have super-cool stuff they like to listen to as they work on various super-cool stuff, but I can't seem to do that. I'm not sure, but it's possible that this is related to the necessity of rhythm, for me. Syllabication is the central guiding force in my writing. It has to be particularly inflected, definitely limited. (Yes, yes, I know - Diane limits her use of words? Well, in a SENSE at least, yes.) The central use of my mental thesaurus is in order to get the right number of syllables into a sentence, or to properly balance a paragraph.

The thing is, I know that typing this semi-weirdly overstates the emphasis I put on rhythm. It's something I'm consciously aware of, and do intentionally emphasize, but the execution isn't as neurotic as perhaps the previous paragraph reads. Taken outside one's skullbone, *most* of our personal motivations look a little odd, and sunlight always makes stuff stranger than it is when it's hidden in the shadows of our private brains.

But I think that this is the source of my problem with being able to actually hear anything coherently musical while I am writing. When I'm at work and setting up a presentation or something, I can keep the radio on "at a reasonable volume" (inaudible to any ear more than two feet from the speaker, and generally just quiet enough for tunes to be often-unidentifiable even to myself). But when I am at home, even just *reading* my novel, as I have been since finishing it, I find music to be impossibly intrusive on the experience.

I have always loved music, and have always composed songs of varying niceness and silliness to myself and my pets. I sing an awful lot, actually, and have been able to tell over the past five years or so how much my poor ability to breathe has affected how I sound. I used to have, if not a particularly talented voice, at least a pleasant one, but that has eroded over time.

I've always been friends with musicians, too, and people with musical talent and affinity. Among my friends are a lot of particular-genre geeks, or people with remarkable knowledge of this or that aspect of musicianship or musicians.

As for me, I usually joke that I can scarcely name a Beatles song if pressed to do so. I've never *concentrated* on music the way real lovers seem to. I don't care what genre something is; if I like it, I like it. I don't seek things based on other things, nor peg exceptional loyalty to certain artists, the way some people do. Sure, I go on about Bowie, but my "love" of him is pretty much skin deep, and is more about particular songs than it is about the man (or persona) himself (anymore). My affinities are NOTHING like those I am witness to in others.

And yet, my love of particular pieces of music is every BIT as deep as those people experience. It's just particularized. I tend to be very specific, when I really respond to something.

It's the same as writing. When I know the rhythm is right, it's terribly satisfying. And when it's been done properly, when I go back to something long after it's written, I find it genuinely exciting. I seem to be able to do that 'pacing' thing rather nicely. Much as I hate battle scenes, the ones I've revisited seem to have their own internal momentum and structure. And I *believe* that this fidelity to pacing and rhythm may be a major part of why the whole, strung together across four and a half years of writing, has turned out to be as coherent as it has. The thing doesn't feel too sputtery to me, it's not lurching in one place and turgid in another: and that's got to be because of the premium I place on rhythm, doesn't it?

I don't know. Maybe it's not as good as I think. And maybe it's some other manner in the way I use language which is the key to continuity. Maybe my character insists, or G-d is my copilot. Heaven knows, as much awareness as I have of what I've been doing all this time, I am constantly surprised by this novel, and find it absolutely as fresh as if I weren't the person who *wrote* the thing after all.

It can't be known, and I know it doesn't matter.

But my little wandering brain gets caught like floss on things like my inability to listen to music while I write, and it gets me churning up mental jetsam, and I barf it out here. Because that's what blogs are for.

For now, I think I am off to the car - where I ALWAYS prefer to listen to something - and perhaps some nice tasty, fresh hummus. That's good brain food!

And then back, for a little reading, and maybe a voice mail from the prospective employer, who will be asking me to come in as soon as I can so they can interview me and fall in love and offer me wonderful amounts of money to come and be their employee ...

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