Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sound Curtains

So I'm sitting down to write, and I realize that I'm doing something that we've discussed at Wyrdsmiths, namely, using what I call a "sound curtain". (Yes, I put the damned period outside of the quotes--I prefer the British format, as I feel it more accurately represents what is intended to be quoted and what is external to the quote. We can argue about that later.)

Basically, I put on headphones and pump the music, effectively cutting me off from any distractions. I use this generally in two distinct ways. Either A) I put on repetitive, mindless energy music (Gnarls Barkley "Crazy"; Bodyrockers "I Like the Way"; Pink "Don't Let Me Get Me"; Britney Spears "...Baby One More Time"; etc.) with a good beat, which I find helps keep my energy up when I am sitting still for hours at a stretch, or B) I find one or two songs with a certain mood to them and put them on repeat, allowing the feel of the song to inform the general mood of the story. The best example I have of this is working on my recent novelette, "Tug-of-Mind", which has a fairly angry, dark mood. It was written to a background of 267 repetititions of Kelly's Clarkson's "Behind These Hazel Eyes". This format yeilds a much wider variety of music used, of course: Sister Hazel, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Gershwin, Ella Fitzgerald, Fountains of Wayne, etc. Whatever I'm shooting for with mood.

I know some writers can't work with music going, and some think that the music actually interferes with the process. I'm wondering what folks think about the use of "sound curtains" and how they impact the writing process, and why people do or don't use them.

12 comments:

Kelly McCullough said...

Brrrr. Just brrrr.


Okay, so I'm a writer and I can't leave it at that. I can work with classical low in the background, but any kind of lyrics make it impossible for me to write. Just. Can't. Do. It.

lydamorehouse said...

I can't have any music at all. I need the silence of my own thoughts or I get distracted.

Anonymous said...

i absolutely must have the tunes on. words get in the way though, so i end up listening to a lot of technoish stuff - house, break beat, trance, ambient - whatever fits the mood. classical works well too. some of the old favorites will put me in a writing mood right away, which is nice for those times when you're having issues getting started.

p.s. can anyone post here or is this just for the cool kids? ;-)

Naomi said...

I was a silence-only writer for a long time. Then I became a "one CD on infinite loop" writer (which drove Ed kind of crazy). Now I usually can't have music on: my kids are sleeping and the music might wake them up, or my kids are awake and elsewhere in the house, and music would prevent me from hearing the older one say, "Don't worry, Kiera, I can fry you an egg! I've watched Mom do it a million times!"

When Ed has taken the girls out on his bike, I like listening to October Project and Loreena McKennitt.

Naomi said...

Anonymous, ANYONE is welcome to post comments!

Anonymous said...

I'm an advocate of the "sound wall", with headphones as loud as my laptop can amp them. I've been listening to Mike Doughty's "Haughty Melodic" album every day for the last eight months, and I haven't got a clue what any of the lyrics are.

DaveHD

Sean M. Murphy said...

The thing that I find so odd is that normally, I would agree with Kelly, Lyda, etc.; I get distracted way too easily. Turn on a radio or the TV, and you might as well have drugged me into a stupor for all the writing I'll get done. In fact, if the music isn't loud enough, I'll start trying to listen to it and that will ruin my focus, too.

The real trick, as far as I can figure, is that it has to be mindless, repetitive music that I can put on repeat. Maybe it's that the music is mind-mubing enough that I'm forcing my brain to escape to another place, thereby coercing it into writing. Because when the lyrics are important, I want to listen, and I can't get past them and into Writerville.

Mari Adkins said...

I write with music on "low", but sometimes I prefer absolute silence. It just depends on what I'm working on at a given time. Then again, I'm one of those "the less noise the better" type of people overall.

Muneraven said...

I do best with music. Preferably popular music . . .classical music distracts me and so does jazz.

I often have very specific playlists for certain characters or sometimes certain projects. The first person narrator of my big fat novel had her own song that I always played before a big scene: Melissa Ferricks's "Happy Song." It's a great song, too.
:-)

Lyda, I'm shocked. I can't imagine anyone writing your books without music. Mouse alone deserves an entire playlist.

Mari Adkins said...

I often have very specific playlists for certain characters or sometimes certain projects I do that! I'm guilty of creating "project soundtracks".

lydamorehouse said...

Interestingly, I *did* have a sound track when I wrote Messiah Node, which is the one book in which Mouse has a significant voice. Gin Blossoms, actually. A very depressing CD, which might account for the tone of the book (which, also was one of the first books of mine to be remaindered.)

Coincidence?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Douglas Hulick said...

I've always been "the more silent it is, the better" kind of writer. Lately, though, I've found I've had to make an exception when I am working at the coffee shop. Ambient background noise is okay, but loud voices or near by conversations absolutely destroy my concentration. In those instances, I pull out my iPod with the rubber ear canal buds, put on some familiar delta blues (it has to be someting I know well, so I can tune it out), and generally do all right.

Still, I find my concentration is strongest when it is quite, but I can't always have that, so I am adapting.