Friday, November 18, 2011

Music to inspire

I can't listen to music while I write. Many writers do. I wish I could. I need absolute silence, even to the point of wearing earplugs while I work (at least on the first draft), in a house with no one home but me and the dog, who is asleep 99% of the time. But I do find music inspiring during the hours I'm not writing. Especially in the car. Especially in the car while driving through mountains. Or the glory of autumn foliage.

While writing a novel I like to find a certain CD or maybe a few of them that put me into the story. This will be music that kindles the landscape and time of wherever and whenever my current story is set. That makes me see the characters. That tugs the strings of my heart back through time to some moment in their lives I'm either writing, or have written.

While writing a story set on a North Carolina plantation in 1793 it was a collection of songs called No Man Can Hinder Me, The Journey from Slavery to Emancipation through Song.

While writing a story about a woman coming back to her home in frontier New York, 1784, it was the soundtrack to Last of the Mohicans.

This past year, writing about western North Carolina, 1787, it's been the soundtrack to Ken Burns' Lewis & Clark Documentary. I think Burns' documentaries are some of the best out there, and this one tops my list of all his work. Some of my favorite musicians took part in the making of the soundtrack, notable among them John and Phil Cunningham, of the Silly Wizard Band.

If you haven't yet seen it, or it's been a while, you can watch the first part of the documentary here:

And here is a solo mandolin player's rendition of "Beech Spring," one of the main themes from the Lewis & Clark soundtrack. This takes me right to the over-mountain frontier, 1787. Every time.


  1. How fun! I love soundtracks, I even make my own for my stories! Nothing like a good song to inspire the written word :)

  2. Cindy, thanks for stopping by. I've never gotten so ambitious as to make a soundtrack for my stories. It's pretty low tech around here when it comes to music. :) I CAN program my boom box to play only those songs on a CD that particularly inspire. There my know-how ends.

  3. Anonymous3:02 PM


    I listen to music while I write, but it has to be something without words or I get distracted.

    I write historicals too, and have found the soundtrack to "All the Pretty Horses" to be a fantastic mood setter. I can't count the times I've hit repeat on that one :)

    Christi Corbett

  4. Christi, Dances With Wolves is another soundtrack I find inspiring, though it's not connected to any particular story. Yet.

  5. Anonymous1:35 PM

    I like to listen to music when I write, but only classical...or Il Divo, which doesn't sing in English! lol

    I got on Spotify and have been building a music playlist for writing. I've found that the sound trac for Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. Very soothing.

  6. Sherrinda, I've never heard of Spotify. Will have to investigate....