Wednesday, January 28, 2009

January Reading/Writing Playlists: Or, Now I Know Why the Frustrated Writer Sings

Music plays a major role in my reading and writing life. I am one of those people who concentrates better with background noise, so I have always listened to music while reading. Sometimes, it greatly enhances the reading experience. When I was an angry teenager, listening to loud guilt-laden metal made reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein a million times better. (Granted, sometimes music warps a reading - listening to Led Zeppelin the first time I read Catcher in the Rye certainly made for what I'll call an "interesting" experience, as much as I love those two things separately). Some music, when heard for the first time, also can remind you of a favorite book or literary moment. Music comes from the same creative impulse as writing - the need for human connection - which makes it a great prop. So whether it's pop or classical or rock, good music can be a great benefit to reading.

Music is just as important to writing as it is to reading, maybe even more so. A really good song or piece of music is a great way to work through an idea, a character, or a setting. For example, when I listen to Sufjan Stevens's "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us!" I get at least one-hundred ideas for a good short story. Music also works as a fantasic motivator. The Roommate and I often go to the Indianapolis Symphony, and I always come back itching to put together a poem. I don't personally know any creative writers who don't listen to some form of music while writing.

Anyways, all this is a long introduction to today's entry, my monthly playlist for reading and writing. This is the music that got me excited about reading and writing this month. Feel free to give them a try yourself. (Warning: I make no claims to being cool. This is just what's doing it for me these days.)

The Reading Playlist
1. Bela Bartok, "Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta"
2. Death Cab for Cutie, "I Will Possess Your Heart"
3. Led Zeppelin, "Achilles's Last Stand"
4. Okkervil River, "So Come Back, I Am Waiting"
5. Supertramp, "Rudy"
6. REM, "Country Feedback"
7. Foo Fighters, "Come Back"
8. Smetana, from Ma Vlast: "No.4, From Bohemia's Woods and Fields."

The Writing Playlist
1. Modest Mouse, "People as Places as People"
2. from the original Broadway cast recording of Spring Awakening, "Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind"
3. The Beatles, "Day in the Life"
4. Bon Iver, "For Emma"
5. Great Lake Swimmers, "Passenger Song"
6. Grieg, "Funeral March" (the original piano piece)
7. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, "Supernaturally"
8. Robert Randolph and the Family Band, "Ain't Nothing Wrong With It"

So there you go. Listen and enjoy.

But before you go, a literary anecdote:
In my American Lit class, we are reading John Smith and my professor promised we'd meet Pochantas. So tonight, while flipping through the assigned pages, I angrily said, "I don't see any fucking Pocahantas." To which my quick-witted Friend Who Cooks said, "He didn't write about that part of their relationship."
It was the highlight of my day.

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