I love music. I doubt that making such a declaration would surprise anyone. All the people I know love music too. I might not like their particular taste, but that is not important. Music is and has been for as long as I can remember, a part of my life. I was no good at playing it myself. I tried the inevitable recorder at school. I really did try but I was never any good. I have a feel for music, I know that I do, but I also have a muscle condition that inhibits normal reflexive action. My muscles tend to stiffen and take a long time to relax if I move too quickly or for too long. I cannot achieve the fluidity of movement that seems to me to be an integral part of being a good musician. I still enjoy music though.
The only time when I have a problem with music is when I am writing. I have found that I cannot concentrate if there is music playing that includes singing. I find it very distracting. When I hear songs that I know well I find them unconsciously seductive and I start singing (badly) along with them. As soon as I realise what I am doing, singing (badly) and not intuitively writing, I get angry with myself. Frustration and stress set in and that is a big blocker on creativity.
Often, I choose not to have any music on at all. I do not find the silence disturbing at all. My wife does. She likes to have music on all of the time, even in rooms that she’s not using. I can happily sit in a room in total silence, well, apart from the clicking of the keys as I hit them. There are times, however, when I do want something in the background. In these instances, instrumentals are the obvious choice, but I have to be careful. If I choose classical music, then I do not want to listen to something powerful or emotive; it has the same affect on me as a song. I have found ambient music to be an excellent choice. The simpler the better. I like the way it just melts into the background and demands nothing of my attention. It is there, like a blanket, softening other sounds.
When I am writing I am also very much in my own imagination. I am on a tour of the story as I have written it inside my head. My task is to get it out of my memory and onto a digital page. I need to concentrate to do this. I also need to lose myself within the fabric of the story. You could call it daydreaming I suppose; the only difference is my fingertips are in contact with the keyboard and usually tapping away incessantly. Unlike normal daydreaming there is, eventually, an end product to what I am doing; a book. Ambient music has certainly helped me produced a couple of those.
Lately, I have been exploring the world of internet radio. Initially, I went in search of ambient music. I found quite a few stations but often the tone seemed to change abruptly. Instead of soft, soothing tones it often got jazzed up a bit and became a distraction. I tried several ‘chill out’ stations and found a similar situation. A lot of the music would be just what I was looking for but never consistently so. I got lucky, however. I found a station called ‘Whisperings’ that plays only solo piano pieces. I gave it a try and was not disappointed. Occasionally, I hear a piece I know but it has never proven distracting. Obviously, I could always put together a playlist and listen to it on my iPod or through my laptop. Sometimes I have done this, but the fact is that I do not own enough of this quiet kind of music to see me through several hours of writing. I am not sure that I want to own that much quiet music either. The existence of alternative sources of music also means that I do not have to, for which I am grateful.
One day my dream will come true; I will have a study. It will include a music centre on which I can play all the music I want. At the moment, I just look for a comfortable place to sit and write. Some places are not as quiet as others. In some locations the need for background music is greater than others. Also, I have found that some writing situations have a greater need for either music or silence than others. This is certainly true when I am trying to reconcile tortuous plot twists or reduce complex concepts. These situations are rare to be honest. Mostly, I do write with the natural fluidity that I could never achieve with a musical instrument. I think that the music I listen to when writing plays a big part in that.