Listen To This: Writing and Music Pairings

Version 2

Guess who dug a working Walkman out of their basement? Image by Steph Snow.

I listen to music. A lot. Nearly every second I’m working and most of the time when I’m not, there’s something blaring in my ears. It’s amazing I’m not deaf.

But until the day when my hearing goes and I have to steal a pair of eardrums from one of you, I’ll keep doing it. What I’m listening to depends largely on what I’m doing*. So here are my pairings. Uncork a bottle and get your tasting notes ready. We’re going in.

Zero Draft: Loud, fast, aggressive rock or pop; things with screaming. I need to absorb the energy from that stuff when I’m pounding out a zero draft like I’m digging a grave with my bare hands. Metal, thrash, punk, rock…hell, even pop, if it’s not too shrill. Anything that keeps the energy up.

Unless…I’m writing an emotional scene. Then: piano concertos or foreign language opera. Energetic but non-intrusive.

Editing: Ambient; haunted; thunderstorms. Something that gets my brain moving but doesn’t steer it. My favourite for this is either the Thunderspace app on my phone (with optional lightning flashes for that mad scientist touch) or Warren Ellis’ Spektrmodule podcast.

Unless…I hate the piece I’m editing. Then: Goth rock or soul.

Rewriting: Techno; Industrial; Hip-Hop. Steady beats, building rhythmic progressions. Makes me feel like I’m building something, too.

Unless…I’m procrastinating over a scene. Then: speed metal to get over the hump.

Blog Posts: Dirty rock; Grunge; 70s rock; Blues rock. Anything that makes you feel a little dirty, just like reading this blog.

Unless…I didn’t get enough sleep or I don’t have a post idea. Then: Random Spotify playlist, just to see what shakes loose.

Research: Instrumental; soundtracks; classical. Just the music, please. Lyrics = distractions.

Unless…I want to be distracted. For example, if I’m brainstorming and want new thoughts to spark up. Then: Anything goes. If I’m looking for new ideas, I have no idea where to find them, so I’ll look anywhere. That’s how I ended up listening to K-Pop one afternoon.

What about you lot? What’s in your headphones? What song do you wake up to? What keeps you going in the trenches? Whose eardrums can I harvest?

*I recently switched from Rdio (RIP) to Spotify, and have begun my campaign of terror against a new algorithm as it tries to pick music based on my listening habits of the last week.**

**Motorhead, Beyonce, a Japanese pianist, a three-hour thunderstorm, and the aria from Madam Butterfly.


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