The previous post made a to-do of my summer playlist, or at least a sampling of it. However, it focused on the music I listen to while driving, working, jamming… my writing music tends to central around only a handful of styles.
Sure, I’ll listen to a little stylistic music to get the emotional tone for some writings, but typically my genres for writing ‘seriously’* are limited. And since a not small number of posts here relate to writing and creating, I thought it about time to provide some of my most inspirational writing tunes. And by ‘some’ I mean enough to make a full length album.
It’s pretty soundtrack heavy due to my being a very visual writer and since music, good music, can drive a show or film with expert precision into a certain mood or emotional state it works very well for someone who sees pictures in their head as they write. Sometimes those pictures need coaxing from the right music to transform into words.
I have an extensive mix (actually several) of music to listen to while writing, as a good sprint can go on for hours and the more fuel provided for that sprint, the better. This list represents not necessarily the most outstanding or emotionally driving pieces, but ones I do turn to time and time again to get the creative juices flowing and the fingers working in time with the brain to transfigure mind pictures into fleshed out scenes.
The Kiss – Trevor Jones (The Last of the Mohicans): A great film score overall, yet despite the cheesy dialogue that accompanies this music in the film as a standalone musical work, this selection engages my synapses to fire in rhythm with my pulse every time.
A Game of Cricket - Adrian Johnston (Becoming Jane): Another score which stands out as a captivating work on its own. Anything that requires romance, a period feel, and/or a bit of cheek mixed with splendour is served by listening to this song and the score as a whole. Honourable mentions for: Selbourne Wood and Rose Garden
Marco Polo – Loreena McKennitt (The Book of Secrets): Instrumental with vocals is tricky because if the vocals don’t fit with the tune, or overpower it, it becomes too distracting. However, McKennitt has an extraordinary gift in blending her voice with the music she composes so when a song is instrumentally based and lacks lyrics her voice always compliments what the rest of the song already carries. While the album version is solid, I have a deep, visceral reaction and connection to the live version from Live in Paris & Toronto.
Loneliness of Six – Christophe Beck (Buffy the Vampire Slayer): One of the most overlooked series compositions ever. The music in Buffy (at least during Christophe’s main run in seasons 1-5) is some of the best television composing ever done. I listen to this cut most often because of the sweet melancholia it brings out, especially when the solo guitar comes in 2/3 through. Honourable mentions for: Remembering Jenny (with a haunting vocal by Anthony Head), Close Your Eyes, and Waking Willow
Madame De Pompadour – Murray Gold (Doctor Who, series 2): All right, let me be frank, there will be an entire post at some point dedicated to the incredible music composed for Doctor Who and Torchwood, and how each piece affects my writing. I truly cannot express how deeply invested I am in this music. However, if I have to choose one piece that succinctly captures all the sweetness, majesty, heartbreak, and hope that Gold’s music inspires, it is this one selection. Some days it gives me hope. Some days it inspires romance. Some days it causes me to break down into uncontrollable sobs. Yet I value each of those experiences equally and they always fuel some good writing. Honorable mentions: too many to name. Seriously. I’ll be doing a post just on Whoniverse music.
Sarabande Suite (Aeternae) – Globus (Epicon): One of very few tracks included on my epic writing playlist with actual words. However, at nearly eight minutes the lyrics make up a very small portion of the tune. I have a (no longer) secret goal to one day raise enough funds to make a trailer (to raise more funds) for my #1 pet film project. The trailer will be set to this song. And it will.be.epic.
The Funeral – Greg Edmonson (Firefly): Whedon shows take very specific stances with their music, and I love that about them. This piece came out of the composer after hearing the show had been cancelled. It’s the requiem for the series and never ceases to give me chills.
A Window to the Past – John Williams (Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban): While Williams’ composition for the first film stands as one of his best works, the second offered little in terms of new material to expand that standout effort. Yet when the tone of films changed with PoA and its new director, so did Williams’ music and the transformation took what was great about the first film’s score and amplified it (which is more than any subsequent HP score managed). This track is beautiful, haunting, bittersweet and emotionally complex as anything Williams has written since "Binary Sunset" for the first Star Wars film.
Maestro – Hans Zimmer (The Holiday): I’m a sucker for Zimmer (and his band of acolytes), I’ll just get that out there now. His compositions have a way of smacking me in the chest with powerful emotion and not letting go. If ever a romantic comedy deserved critical recognition for its score, my vote would be for The Holiday (appropriate as well as Jack Black’s character is a film composer). This selection opens the film, and when coupled with Kate Winslet’s incredibly opening VO sets the tone for what is a magical little movie with an amazing score. Honourable mentions for: Cry and Gumption
Jugglers – Javier Navarrete (Inkheart): Never underestimate the score of a ‘kids’ movie. A surprising number have incredible scores to accompany them. Inkheart is a strong example of this. The music overall is well done, but it’s obvious that (as with readers) the composer’s favorite character to write for is Dustfinger. Whenever I need a little boost in magic, I listen to this. Honourable mentions for: Dustfinger Disappointment and Meadows (also Dustfinger tracks)
My Name is Lincoln – Steve Jablonsky (The Island): Crap movie. Not outstanding score overall. This one piece? Incredible. (And it fits into the score of Elizabeth: The Golden Age almost better than that film’s real score)
Letter That Never Came – Thomas Newman (A Series of Unfortunate Events): See above re: scores to kid-oriented films. The music for this hits the tone of the film (and really, the books) directly on target. Newman knows how to pull at the heartstrings while still keeping a touch of hope and magic alive.
Samwise the Brave – Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers): Choosing a single track from these scores made my heart ache. The music of these films is intrinsically tied to the emotion and journey of the films. When they use bits of the score during the production diaries for The Hobbit, I get choked up. Yes, really. The epic efforts used in creating these films is felt in every piece of music and no matter what track I listen to, I can feel the fueling emotion of the entire trilogy within it. Honourable mentions for: The Council of Elrond, The Breaking of the Fellowship and The Grey Havens
PMs Love Theme – Craig Armstrong (Love Actually): I love this movie. Suck it. All the major score themes resonate with the tone of the film, making me feel equally hopeful and bittersweet with every track. When I need to press on to some great moment in my writing, this track always pushes me to the light as I picture little Sam tearing his way through Heathrow to have an epic tribute to The Graduate -- except The Graduate didn’t include Bill Nighy stripping on telly in the background.
Injection – Hans Zimmer (Missions Impossible: II): Yes, another Zimmer track. Yes, from the Notorious rip-off that is MI:II. Yet fresh off his epic achievement in scoring for Gladiator (with Zimmerite Lisa Gerrard), this soundtrack soars far above the provided film material.
The Moon Beckons – Nick Glennie-Smith (The Man in the Iron Mask): This score pretty much began my obsession with soundtrack music (well, this and The Lion King). An instance where the music fuels the film when it could have destroyed it, but the quality of the score helps me overlook the UN Committee style accents scattered through the film.
Lancelot Theme – Rohan Stevenson (Merlin: Series 1): Merlin’s score themes are limited, but the ones that are used time and again never grow stale. The music for the show covers playful and epic, romantic and dramatic, with its own stylish flare. It’s more subdued and grounded than a lot of fantasy TV series’ scores. The Lancelot theme is the main romantic theme in the show, and it’s haunting beauty is both inspiring and swoon-worthy. Honourable mentions for: The First Code, Merlin Rides Out and Lancelot Leaves
The Caravan – Jerry Goldsmith(The Mummy): Take the score of The Omen and do a mash-up with the score of The Wind and The Lion, and you have the score for The Mummy. The score perfectly captures the feel and tone of one of my favorite flicks. Equal parts epic adventure-comedy-romance and old-fashioned-horror. This piece always makes me want to go ride camels through the desert – and I hate sand. And heat. Honourable mentions for: Camel Race and Giza Port
Wolsey Commits Suicide / Finale – Trevor Morris (The Tudors: Series 1): Period-style scores in TV dramas are tricky to get right, and Morris not only got it right, he excelled at it. Any montage done in this series set to his music wields as much power as any of the best written scenes in the show. This piece in particular. Honourable Mentions for: Henry Meets Anne Boleyn, More’s Love of a King, and the title theme
Gabriel’s Oboe – Ennio Moricone (The Mission): I may have my own preferences and leanings when it comes to film scores, but that doesn’t mean I shy away from greatness even when it doesn’t fit my usual style. The score for The Mission is one of the most haunting, beautiful, accomplished works of film music ever created. This oboe-driven piece never ceases to inspire depth in my writing. (And how often do you get to use the phrase ‘oboe-driven’ in scores? It’s rare.)
Barbossa is Hungry – Klaus Badelt (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl): Again, Zimmerphile here, but the scores to the first and third Pirates films are, like The Mummy score, perfect matches with the film material. While I love all the music, this track holds special significance for me. When I want power and speed, I use this. Also, play this track through your best sound system at about ¾ full volume – you’ll shake walls. Promise.
Honourable mentions for: Will and Elizabeth, One Last Shot, and One Day (by Zimmer, from At World’s End)
So there you have it. Twenty-one tracks (off a playlist of about 650) that inspire me to write more, better, and often.
What music inspires you to create?
*'seriously' equates to writing with intent of creating something that may someday be viewed by others for critical and/or commercial use… or anything I write that I want to pour myself into fully.