I like to have background music playing when I write. Nothing too distracting. I generally like something like Ambient or Lounge, maybe Classical or Alternative. Just depends on my mood and what I’m writing.
For sci-fi, I like to have electronic music playing, generally instrumental. It sets the mood, makes for a nice layer of white noise in the background. With vocals I usually default to listening to Bjork. Her voice is beautiful and her music is sort of hypnotic. I guess that gives me that cyberpunk vibe.
When I work on a “mainstream” story (i.e.; nothing too weird) I like to listen to Tom Waits. His music always evokes dimly lit bars, cigarette smoke, a jukebox playing in the corner of the room in the early hours of the morning. It helps me to write something real, something cut from real life. Dark, brooding, dysfunctional.
On occasion I play classical. The thing about classical is that it’s often very powerful and hits me on an emotional level, which can be distracting if it’s one of my favorite pieces (like Fur Elise). I hear the music begin and it catches my mind like a fish on a hook, and the next thing I know I’m daydreaming about the notes being played. I see the fingers on the piano keyboard, or the bow thrashing back and forth across the strings. Not exactly conducive to writing.
Very rarely do I have nothing playing when I write. I need to have something, some white noise, in order to let my mind relax. Even need that background sound when I go to bed at night. Sounds of the ocean surf, or a fan, or music playing softly from the radio.
I guess it comes down to the fact that I need some noise in my life. Maybe it’s from growing up in the city when I was a kid. I know the brief time I spent in rural settings, I wasn’t exactly comfortable with the lack of noise. Found it unsettling. I think that when it’s too quiet – going to bed, writing, or some other function that requires shutting off your waking mind – a sudden noise becomes an explosion, breaking any concentration and ruining the mood.
Weird. I know.
I also find it interesting that music plays such a large part in my creative process. I write music when I can, strum on my guitar, or play around in Garage Band on my iPad. It’s always been a part of my life and it seems I can’t do without.
I’ll write more about music in the future.