Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Music and Your Muse

By Kerrie Flanagan

Music has always been a big part of my life. My dad is a professional musician so my brothers and I were exposed to a variety of music growing up. I began playing piano in 4th grade and took up other instruments throughout my school years (clarinet, saxophone and cello).

Music was huge part of my identity and being in band was the main motivating factor that got me to school each day. The best part was after months of practice, everything would finally come together and an incredible synergy would happen with all the band members when we played a certain piece. The music would wash over us and connect us to one another.

It was those moments that I remember well.

I don’t pick up my clarinet much anymore and I sold my piano, but I still seek this feeling through listening to music and going to hear live music. It doesn’t happen often, but every now and then, the music reaches out and resonates with me on such a deep, profound level that I wish the moment would last forever.

The very first concert I ever attended was Journey when I was 13 and I had one of those moments. The energy in the venue was buzzing and the moment I heard Steve Perry sing, I fell head over heels for his voice and the music.

I felt an immediate connection and became a huge fan/groupie/fanatic. I bought all their albums, listened to their music every day, joined the fan club, anxiously waited for their videos to play on MTV and went to their concerts whenever they were in town. To this day, when I hear Journey, I am transported back to that very first concert.

My recent experience was with Face Vocal Band, an a cappella group from Boulder that performed a concert at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins last December. They have an amazing energy on stage that seems to permeate the audience, creating a genuine connection with everyone in the crowd. Just as I did with Journey (except now it’s CD or downloads) I’ve bought all their music, I listen their music every day, I follow them on Facebook (modern version of a fan club) and I go see them perform whenever I can.

What does this have to writing? A lot. Just like with music, writing can have a profound effect on people. Whether it’s to make someone laugh, cry, reflect or escape the realities of this world for a while, writing has the power to reach readers on a deep, profound level. When this happens, the reader feels a connection to the author and the story, and like I did with Journey and Face, the reader wants that feeling to continue.

It is our job as writers to put our best work out into the world; to write the stories that resonate within us. Then, hopefully, our words will reach out and grab our readers and stay with them for a long time.


David Sharp said...

Wow! That acapella group is pretty astounding. I can see how that would be a moving experience.

I also agree that music has a major tie-in with writing. I've come to value film scores to help me connect to an emotion that one of my characters is feeling or for the tone of a scene to put me in the mode to write it. There's a lot of great stuff out there. Even some video games have incredible soundtracks anymore. But they say your readers won't feel what you don't, and music is a great way to put you in the proper emotional state.

Great thoughts!

JC Lynne said...

Years ago, I want to say Isabel Allende released a CD of music with one of her novels. I've looked it up, but can't find it. In any case, the CD was in sleeve in the back of the book and there were cues in each chapter as to which track to listen as you read. The music was mostly instrumental...the story was about love and reincarnation. I don't remember feeling particularly connected because I think the music was composed after the story was written as accompaniment.

Personally, I have specific songs that inspire or inform particular scenes in my writing. I'd love to have a Spotify soundtrack for each of my novels. It's something I've considered adding to my website, but will readers find the same resonance? Or is it like a movie soundtrack?

No doubt music transports.

Kerrie said...

David, Face is an amazing group-definitely check them out. I agree, video games have some incredible soundtracks. I love what you said, "Your readers won't feel what you don't." This is so true.

JC, I like the idea of adding a soundtrack to a novel, but you bring up a good point; will the music resonate the same with other readers. It still seems like something fun to try.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I still hold Peter Frampton close to my heart because his was the first and last large concert I attended (early 70s at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis). I prefer smaller venues now, but love all music from classical to country. The thing most fascinating to me about music is how a few bars of one song can transport us into a memory from decades ago as if it were time travel.

A capella is a newer favorite. I haven't heard the Boulder group in concert, but I wander You Tube sometimes looking for performances from groups like Pentatonix. Their Christmas songs are amazing.

Kerrie said...

Pat, I agree--it is amazing how a few bars from a song can send us deep into a memory. Take some time to look up Face Vocal Band. They are wonderful (especially in person). Pentatonix is also great.

Laura Mahal said...

Hi, Kerrie. I always enjoy your posts! They transport me. I had forgotten about those wonderful, zany nine years of band with Mr. George Russi, marching in local parades and performing Michael Jackson songs. Our school was small enough that cheerleaders and football players would grab their instruments and join us on the field for the half-time show. I changed out of my mascot costume under the bleachers and unpacked my flute, as if I were an ordinary girl not living a double-life. Thirty years later, I think it's fine if people discover I was the South Side Ram.

I find music can work quite well in pairing with research for historical fiction. For novels set in other decades, music provides insight into the culture of the time. Also, it is interesting how music from other decades can have cross-over appeal to younger readers. My fifteen-year-old daughter loves Journey and often listens to their music when her friends come over. "... living just to find emotion." Journey appears to be timeless!

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