The music behind Chevenga

In case you wonder what I listen to when I write—because I have to listen to something—it’s an eclectic mix of new age, fusion, jazz, world, electronic, progressive rock and the odd movie score. I tend to avoid anything with lyrics unless I’m familiar enough with them that I don’t hear them, or they’re in a language I don’t understand. Otherwise the words interfere with my words. I go for variety.

But every now and then I get seriously enamoured of a single piece of music and it can get associated in my mind with a certain piece of writing.

I was on a heck of a kick for “The Brazilian” by Genesis, off their album Invisible Touch, for a lot of the time I was writing asa kraiya. There’s something inevitable and inescapable and shattering about this instrumental piece that says asa kraiya to me.

Brave New World” (warning, crappy sound quality compared to the original) from the album Beyond the Mind’s Eye by Jan Hammer is totally the theme music for The Games. Shirley can back me up on this. (That book is at least half-written already, by the way.)

Most recently, while writing The Philosopher in Arms, I am flipping over “The Roots of Coincidence” by the Pat Metheny Group, as well as “Across the Sky,” the ethereal piece that immediately precedes it on the album Imaginary Day. I’ve long been a Pat Metheny fan but somehow I missed this one, and happened to discover it while visiting Shirley and listening to an online radio station that plays nothing but Pat Metheny. A commenter on another Youtube version of “The Roots of Coincidence” described it well:

this composition has always disturbed the hell out of me

it's a nightmare done in audio

brilliant? yes of course
enjoyable? i cant say that

i listen to it on rare occasions
i have to prepare myself for it

it's an onslaught of aural sensations

disorienting and confusing

like being lost in a black lite lit maze of cracked mirrors w/ strobe lites flashing too

I don't have exactly the same reaction--I find it more ecstatic, enjoy the disorientation, and can listen to it over and over--but you get the idea. Another commenter described it, equally aptly, as being like “meeting the shadow”.

Another unbelievable piece of music off the same album is “The Heat of the Day” (warning: more crappy sound quality). Check out the incredible piano solo by Lyle Mays. This is currently the tune most likely to stick in my head when I have no other music playing.

However I also personally think you have not lived until you’ve heard “Sound Chaser” by Yes off the album Relayer. Here’s a live version.

And then there’s the awesome “Sensorium” by Delerium, from their album Semantic Spaces. (No link as I couldn’t find a video.)

It would have been very logical to listen to the Gladiator soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard while writing the Mezem portions of The Philosopher in Arms, but I didn’t that much. It’s actually almost too intense. Still, a great album.

Other fave artists include Afro-Celt Sound System, Enigma, Peter Gabriel, Enya (especially those pieces of hers with lyrics in Latin), Andreas Wollenweider, Vangelis, Mike Oldfield, Gentle Giant, Jeff Beck, Dead Can Dance (small doses), every single Cirque du Soleil soundtrack ever produced, and many more.

I love Thomas Dolby and would listen to him while writing except that my 12-year-old son Raphi is such a Dolby fanatic that every time we are together in my car, we must listen to Golden Age of Wireless or Aliens Ate My Buick or Astronauts and Heretics. I am not sure what he has against The Flat Earth. Thank the Gods he has taste; if it was Twisted Sister, I’d have to put him up for adoption. Despite being autistic, this kid knows every single word of every song and started working out the tunes and rhythms on my keyboards when he was nine. He also has perfect pitch. He and I actually do a fairly credible version of “Budapest by Blimp,” which is not a simple song, on my piano and other keyboards.

I would fit in with my family more if I were a musician rather than a writer, actually, and I thought I might go that way when I was a teen, until I noticed I spent more time writing. I have one brother who is a professional jazz musician, playing sax and flute in the UK, and my mother and sister both taught music for the Toronto school board. As talented amateurs, my father played classical guitar, my sister plays flute and recently decided to get louder by picking up the sax, my other brother plays a mean electric guitar, and some of my nieces and nephews are musically inclined, too. I read music a little, but one of my hobbies is working out complicated pieces or difficult-to-understand chord progressions by ear (those subtle layered four-note chords for “Budapest by Blimp” were a real challenge). I also do a little composing. If I ever a) find the time and b) overcome the shyness, I might just finish recording the main theme for PA and let actual people actually hear it.

When I look for the common thread among my faves, it’s virtuoso instrumental work (I like to marvel that it’s even possible for human beings to play), complexity of melody and harmony (figuring out my faves by ear is either extremely difficult or impossible) some degree of chaos (I generally avoid classical, because it’s all too orderly and predictable--except for Stravinsky, whose stuff I love), strong, fast and complex rhythms, emotional intensity, and that tinge of darkness mixed with ecstasy.

I guess I am trying to create writing that is like my favourite music. Or else that music is my favourite because it is like what I want my writing to be.

If there ever is a Chevenga movie, I have my list of preferred composers/musicians to do the soundtrack. What I want to do is hire the awesome team of Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard, but add Andreas Wollenweider. And Thomas Dolby. Maybe even Pat Metheny.

BTW if you know of any artists I have not mentioned whose work is similar to those I have, please sing out.

Trackback URL for this post:
15 Apr01:01

Definitely not the same style

By V

but can I go to sleep safe in my belief that all Canadians know and love the Arrogant Worms? I can't listen to them all the time, but they're awesome when I'm in the right mood, and I've even seen them live. They're a good folk band.

The Last Saskatchewan Pirate! Possibly my favorite.
Carrot Juice Is Murder Srsly! Official video featuring the band, too.
Canada's Really Big!
And at your next friend's birthday, Happy Happy Birthday!
Jesus' Brother Bob Humor, not offensive unless you're really too sensitive. First 1:10 can be skipped.

The list goes on and on, I stop only for brevity. While hiking my I've been known to burst spontaneously into the refrain from Rocks and Trees.

15 Apr13:10

music, V, and carrot murder

By capriox

Carrot Juice is Murder FTW! Thanks for that one, V. Odds of me leaving the state for anything short of a wedding or funeral are slim, though. The darn critters insist on being fed every day, and I have a hard time making more than just a day trip. Also, fall = harvest season. But remind me about it closer to the fall, and we'll see.

Also, V, you need to go reply on the MLM board re: whether or not you're coming back in August Eye-wink

15 Apr08:35

We'll be sure to play

By Karen

"Happy Happy Birthday" for Shirley as her birthday is on Monday.

14 Apr10:53

I can't do that. I need total

By Anonymous

I can't do that. I need total quiet when I write. Music takes my mind to other areas.

20 Mar10:45

Well. Looking at these

By Anonymous

Well. Looking at these musical influences, I'm strongly reminded of and feel I would be remiss to direct your momentary attention to an aspiring young musical polymath who not only shares many of the same influences (though she's only now beginning to explore some of them, having recently got the resources to do something other than "girl with guitar"), but also put out several albums based on paperback pulp sff novels and is currently assembling one based on weblit.

Her name is Susan Tucker, and as noted above, she still primarily does simple, one-instrument songs she can (and does) play on a whim in somebody's kitchen, but her explorations into other genres tend to the thoughtful, provocative, and sometimes outright terrifying.

Forgot The Passwords To All His Other Email Addresses,
Michael S. S. Thedford

15 Apr10:10

Thanks for the reminder

By V

I first found and enjoyed her work through AE's stories, but then forgot to follow up on it. Now I see she's doing several productions across the country, tho--I'm starting to wonder if this could be a good spark for some meetups. Capriox, would you be motivated to drive over towards Boston this fall? I should make a little noise at Meilin's, too.

20 Mar11:15


By Anonymous

Inattentive McFloridprose wrote:
Well. Looking at these musical influences, I'm strongly reminded of and feel I would be remiss to direct your momentary attention to an aspiring young musical polymath

Gah. "Remiss not to." NOT to. Please click the link, and check out, ohh . . . Quartered, I think, is a good demonstration of the young lady in question's versatility, while most people recommend one starts with the distinctly Celtic-flavored Sirens. At least, that's what her mom told me to buy first.

Evidently In A Bit Of A Hurry,
Still M.S.S. Thedford

20 Mar12:04

Inattentive McFloridprose, lol!

By Karen

Ironically, I actually read the "not" right in, not noticing at all that it was missing, from what was obviously an enthusiastic recommendation.

Thanks! I am checking her music out even as I write. Needless to say, I'd love it if she found and was inspired by my writing...

19 Mar19:07

This kinda thing is why the

By capriox

This kinda thing is why the interactive nature of weblit = WIN. (Altho every now & then I do get intimidated when I realize I'm casually chatting with Real Live Actual Authors, meep!).

I'll be sampling these over the next little while, but I'm curious: do you listen to any Loreena McKennitt?

19 Mar21:18

If it's any comfort

By Karen

...this Real Live Actual Author gets intimidated by... well, assorted things.

But, yes, interaction, mega-win. I can't say how much I love having immediate feedback and back-and-forth with my readers. There is simply no comparison that way with the dead-tree world.

Loreena McKennitt, not so much. She's got a gorgeous and impressive voice, but I don't really like her style of singing, it seems too affected to me.

And there's another thing, maybe not her fault, but she put out a Christmas album with "Good King Wenceslas" on it, and when she should sing "Therefore, Christian men be sure, wealth or rank possessing," she sings "Therefore, Christian men rejoice," thus jumping momentarily into a whole other carol. I know this is a tiny stupid little thing, and a lot of people could never understand or relate to how I feel, but whenever you put on your Christmas music, you hear each piece repeatedly, and so this keeps happening, and it drives me nuts, to the point that I never put her album in the Christmas rotation on the stereo any more.

My mind being the way it is has its downside.

Bookmark Us

Bookmark Website 
Bookmark Page