Why Writers Should Get Over Pop Music

iStockphoto / dblight

Pop music is the worst thing that could happen to your writing. It’s for dates and bad wedding receptions. Turn it off at once.

Pop is designed to structure your ideas. Stereo hearts in the dark with pumped up kicks. And it works far too well for a writer’s good. As Noel Coward told us, it’s extraordinary how potent cheap music is.

Contemporary classical music, the genius of today’s living composers, will set you free.

Shake out some of the sand that’s in your hair when you come in off the dunes of life. Mess with your best nitties. Line up your finest gritties. You know what we’re doing, don’t you? Well, of course you do. Get them in the right order and others can read what you were thinking. Even feel what you were feeling. These are words. And this is writing. It’s what we do.

But why not engage an even higher alchemy?

Living composers, gorgeous and serious creatures with racing-quick wits—not old dead white guys in breeches—arrive dusted in the same nuggets of concept and emotion we writers wear. Same world as ours, after all. But they super-heat what sticks to them into a new substance.

High-silica content: composers’ material moves through time. And this is your hours’ glass.

Contemporary classical music wraps your efforts to fuse thought and emotion in a see-through composite. Clear aesthetic possibility. As your words rush through that glassy focused space-space they create with their music, you may or may not share a single concept with your composer. Doesn’t matter. The transparency of her or his medium opens windows in your work, shifting your sands with new breezes of sonic intelligence.

Three samples for writerly tasks

Brainstorming: “TransAmerica” is about rapid mind movement with pushy percussion, full of knockabout switchbacks. Todd Reynolds is one of our most accomplished digital violinists. He tours internationally in performance of his own work and that of composer-colleagues. Here’s more about the guy many of us know on Twitter as “DigiFiddler,” who also founded one of New York’s most acclaimed amped string quartets, Ethel. Click here to listen if you don’t see the slider below; go to the 2nd slider on the page. (Audio from Q2 Music.)

Crafting: “Oceanic Verses” starts very quietly and searches the horizon, tentative and patient. Composer Paola Prestini is a wonder. The calls of her strings remind me of the great Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou’s lonely siren echoes. And Prestini loves writers: “Literature has played a huge role in my writing and it has always been my first collaborator; I love painting music on literary canvases; ideas on the page invite me to play and to think.” Click here to listen if you don’t see the slider below. (Audio from Q2 Music.)

Revising: “Everything Is an Onion” is careful, purposeful, measured, dutiful. Yeah, like peeling it. You undo one edit and look what happens to three other phrases in the same chapter, right? Timo Andres works his keyboard, as you do yours, with personable intensity. It’s what caused critic Alex Ross to call “Shy and Mighty,” Andres’ debut recording, “more mighty than shy.” And as your revisions stretch out into something past a natural lifespan (don’t they always?), it’s comforting to know that this piece is from a lengthier work titled “It Takes a Long Time To Be a Good Composer.” Click here to listen if you don’t see the slider below; go to the 2nd slider on the page. (Audio from Q2 Music.)

Stump the Porter

Make a deal with you. Turn off that Beyoncé before your ears glaze over, and tell me in a comment below what sort of scene or situation or mess you’ve written yourself into. I’ll get back to you with a suggestion of a living composer whose work may just help you hear your way around the next corner in your manuscript.

And tell me what you think: is there a time and place for pop in serious writing? What’s your favorite music for various writing tasks? How do you use music in conjunction with your writing? Or do you use it at all? If not, what’s the matter with you?

Porter Anderson—whose Writing on the Ether appears here at JaneFriedman.com on Thursdays—has issued a matching grant to Q2 Music listeners who donate during the autumn pledge drive through October 26. You do NOT have to pledge a penny. This is not a pitch. Porter’s much more interested in bringing together new music with new writings. If you do feel interested in contributing to the work of this unique NPR affiliate (an online streaming service of WNYC/WQXR in New York), each $1 you donate will be matched with $1 from Porter, up to a total of $5,000, at Q2Music.org. And Porter would love to thank you. Drop him a line on Twitter.


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Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson

Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) is a journalist and consultant in publishing. He's The Bookseller's (London) Associate Editor in charge of The FutureBook. He's a featured writer with Thought Catalog (New York), which carries his reports, commentary, and frequent Music for Writers interviews with composers and musicians. And he's a regular contributor of "Provocations in Publishing" with Writer Unboxed. Through his consultancy, Porter Anderson Media, Porter covers, programs, and speaks at publishing conferences and other events in Europe and the US, and works with various players in publishing, such as Library Journal's SELF-e, Frankfurt Book Fair's Business Club, and authors. You can follow his editorial output at Porter Anderson Media, and via this RSS link.

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63 Comments on "Why Writers Should Get Over Pop Music"

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ClaudiaC
4 years 7 months ago
This is a very fun idea. I’d love some help with a book where I can’t get the story to line up. You know what I mean, it’s growing like a tomato vine with little fruit. I wake up in the middle of the night and realize I have a lot of vine and few flowers.  I think the problem is discernment. Any help there? And, I have to say there is also a lot that can be learned from some Pop music. Max Martin, for example, is the author of a lot of pop songs. I’ve learned a lot… Read more »
Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Hey, some great thoughts here! To start with your “vine and few flowers” (great phrase, difficult problem), you might look into some of the fine work of a composer named Peter Broderick – his Music for Falling From Trees, in particular, develops a kind of rich filigree of sound without cutting short original themes. It’s an album-length suite, too, which gives you a tremendous range and sense of space to work with. I do hear you on the talent of many pop artists. I’m impressed with your example of Max Martin — cool point about serial fiction. I think where… Read more »
ClaudiaC
4 years 7 months ago
I’ve had the very experience you describe. It’s embarrassing to say, but I had ‘Elevator Love Song’ on my Pandora while I was writing. I named a character ‘the rich girl’ then had to defend the use ‘rich girl’ vs an actual name for years. So yes, you’re right – lesson learned (I hope!). Thanks for the suggestion of Peter Broderick. I’ll check it out and report back! 🙂 Yes, YMCA is an excellent example of your point. And I do love ‘scarecrows dressed in latest styles’. It may have to be the title of a serial or a book I… Read more »
Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Hey, Claudia, just getting back to your last post, you’re right, of course, that lyrics aren’t the only thing that can create a guiding context for a composition emotionally (or intellectually). I think what I’m saying, however, is that popular music, say a standard piece, three minutes long with a single, repeating hook — maybe “I love you just the way you are” — hardly has the potential range of aesthetic interpretation that something like a 20-minute piece from Rautavaara will have. For all the anxiety that may have informed some of Mozart’s work, the very same piece of his… Read more »
ClaudiaC
4 years 7 months ago
*nodding* I agree that many forms of classical music allow the user to bring their own experience, dance around with it, and set it down.  What I think we’re both agreeing that an author needs to take responsibility for the environment s/he is writing within. Many of your commenters have said they listen to this or that while they write this or that. Our stories depend on us to take this level of responsibility.  I also love the support of new music in all it’s forms. A lot of new music gets created/sucked up by the movie industry where it’s… Read more »
Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago

Glad you like Peter’s work. His 5th movement in Trees is my favorite, the “Awaken” movement. And yeah, the responsibility is the key. We all hold it and need to handle it well. Great chatting with you, Claudia, thanks for so much grand input!

**This comment written while listening to @MissyMazzoli:twitter ‘s Song From the Uproar, so cool, on @Q2Music:twitter — all about the 19th century explorer Isabelle Eberhardt http://ow.ly/76dsS , amazing true story of a woman-explorer, my favorite of Missy’s works.

Veronica
4 years 7 months ago
I don’t suppose there’s a music to help someone who’s started 13 stories and/or books, but hasn’t really finished even one? I listen to music a lot, but not usually while I’m writing. I am a dancer every bit as much as I am a writer. Or at least I used to be. If I listen to music, the dancer in me wants to come out and start choreographing, or worse yet, just dancing around aimlessly. Then nothing gets written, and since there’s not much space in my writing spaces, things also get knocked down. And sometimes I hurt myself. … Read more »
Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Perfect uses of your pop music, Veronica, lol, I’ll concede that it’s laundry-folding stuff, hands down. 🙂 For your writing interests, I’m going to send you to my favorite source, the mighty Q2 Music contemporary-classical stream provided by NPR affiliate WQXR in New York. On this page of their site http://www.wqxr.org/#/articles/q2-live-concerts/2011/aug/23/live-temple-dendur/  you’ll find a remarkable concert, which was streamed live to the world on September 11 from the ancient Egyptian Templer of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I want you to scroll down to the last audio “slider” on the page, under the title The Disintegration Loops by… Read more »
Jamesmb113
Jamesmb113
4 years 7 months ago

Thank you so much for your suggestions, and for your kind words.

I started with “Hymn” from “Sinking of the Titanic”.  It truly reached into obscure corners of my mind, my heart and my experience.  Part benediction, part reassuring pat on the back from an old friend, part – something that’s harder to describe.  Something akin to “It’s ok to grieve that now.”

A small part of me wants to rush into “Jesus’ Blood”, but I think I’d rather just sit here quietly, and let “Hymn” settle in a bit.

Thank you, sir.  You’re truly a musical matchmaker.

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
James, I’m delighted to hear that Gavin’s work is reaching you so easily, although not surprised. If there’s any magic at all, it belongs to him and these other composers whose work I’ve come to love so much in close proximity to my own. With luck, you’ll find more and more of Gavins’ and others’ work speaking to you. But if you go no farther than him, you’ll have walked into a cathedral’s worth of fabulous sound and thought and feeling. He’s an intensely intelligent composer whose every note is where it is for a reason. A grand model for… Read more »
Rich Weatherly
4 years 7 months ago

Thank you for sharing. I couldn’t agree more. The realm of classical music, from baroque to contemporary offers a rich assortment of inspiration. I use it for inspiration and in many instances to guide pacing. 

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Hear, hear, Rich! That range you’re talking about is the ticket. As I was saying to Claudia earlier, there’s actually little question of talent in the pop world (i.e. Max Martin, whom she mentions, Newman, et al, today’s Adele, etc.). The real question for writers — and easy for none of us — is to stay open to what we need. For my own creativity, the contemporary-classical span works best, while I can “hear what they hear” in both older classical work and current pop trends. Bravo for recognizing that range is the issue. Gives you access to everything you… Read more »
Cyndi Pauwels
Cyndi Pauwels
4 years 7 months ago

I never write with music that has lyrics, it silences my words and I’m stuck with the song running through my head for days. Some classical/non-vocal music works, but mostly I prefer silence.

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
And it’s the silence that would drive ME mad, lol. We’re all so different in how we write.  Yep on lyrics, though. I do find a great deal of contemporary choral work — Morten Lauridsen and Eric Whitacre and Nico Muhly and even Lisa Bielawa — can be fantastic for my writerly efforts, but the lyrics of choral are in most cases used far more as orchestral elements than lead vocals in pop are, of course. But then, there’s my guy Corey Dargel, fully contempo-classical and all lyrics. Terrific composer…never try to write to him. 🙂  Thanks for reading and… Read more »
Jamie Clarke Chavez
4 years 7 months ago

Porter, I love this post, love the idea, love your writing, love the way you think about things in completely new ways. Nice post. 

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago

Jamie, I’ll either have to marry you or hire you as my publicity director. 🙂  Thanks, seriously, for such kind words … music to anybody’s ears. 🙂

Roz Morris fiction
4 years 7 months ago

Love this post. I use music in so many ways. Classical, as you say, to open the windows and whirl up the emotions that as yet have no words. But I invent too readily and often too fast to keep control. Sometimes I need a simple piece of strutting pop to capture a moment, put a net over it and let me examine it.

Anyway, I have story problem that needs the classical kind of exploration. What do you prescribe to interrogate the possibilities of a returning ghost? 

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Well, YOU took this topic on earlier with me, Roz, in this post that gave us your great phrase, an “undercover soundtrack” for the way writers can think of their collaborative relationship with music. http://ow.ly/75GIh  Great job there (and thank you for giving me a chance to talk about one of our best composers of the moment, Caleb Burhans (@Pluckbro:disqus ).  I DO get what you mean when you say that you sometimes need “a simple piece of strutting pop” to snag what you’re doing. Something like Pēteris Vasks’ amazing “Botschaft” (means Embassy, or, less formally, Messages) can pretty much take me right… Read more »
Roz Morris fiction
4 years 7 months ago

Happy, negative, disturbing, exhilarating. eerie, massive? All of the above. Can’t wait to get started.

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Wow. One multi-talented ghost from the sound of it. Well, you’re in luck because the concert just finished tonight in New York with the American Composers Orchestra had six new works on it (two world premieres, four NY premieres) and was a knockout for just that cluster of terms you’re using there. I think that with the single exception of the Ruby Fulton piece (hers was based in cowboy lore, almost a contemporary Ferde Grofe treatment), the other five each will have something to offer you and the whole show should be on-demand on the @Q2Music:twitter  site tomorrow, Sunday, at some point,… Read more »
Jessica
Jessica
4 years 7 months ago

Do soundtracks count? I love the music from The Piano, The Book of Eli, and How to Train Your Dragon. Very uplifting and soul reaching for me. Any suggestions?

Eeleen Lee
4 years 7 months ago

Craig Armstrong “As If To Nothing” is a great collection of his orchestral pieces.
Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to “The Mission” (1986)
John Barry “Dances With Wolves”
Hans Zimmer “The Wings of A Film” live performances of his compositions for “Gladiator”, “Thelma and Louise” et al.
Ryuichi Sakamoto, “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence” and “The Last Emperor”
Vangelis “Chariots of Fire”, “Blade Runner”

ClaudiaC
4 years 7 months ago

I listen to a piano music stream at Pandora and select the upbeat music. Have you tried creating a ‘The Piano’ stream? I bet the others would come up.

Eeleen Lee
4 years 7 months ago

Music helps to set the tone for writing but it is ultimately a matter of taste, mood and preference. Sometimes you may prefer complete silence, classical music or even Nine Inch Nails in your ear (the industrial rock band)  Agree with ClaudiaC about pop music. I wouldn’t dismiss all pop as being simplistic and only fit to soundtrack major life events (Unless wedding bands play Philip Glass at wedding receptions?) 

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Jessica, Eeleen, and Claudia, my movie muskateers here, excellent comments!  Eeleen, so glad you know Armstrong (Quiet American) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (Sheltering Sky), two of my favorites, along with the great, great Hans Zimmer, of course. All your suggestions are quite astute.  May I add a couple to consider?  @NicoMuhly:disqus  –  his score for The Reader is very fine, and he’s one of my all-time favorite composers. Watch for his new opera (with Craig Lucas), coming to the Met in the 2013 season. It’s called Two Boys, and it’s fantastic, saw its world premiere in London. John Powell – his trilogy… Read more »
Jill Barville
4 years 7 months ago
Hah!  Your lead made me laugh.  The obvious retort is that only someone “old” would disparage pop music, the way Beethoven was disparaged in his day.  But when I played the first track you posted, my teenage drummer heard it and pronounced it “cool”.   This is an interesting throw down and I hope it sparks much debate because I’m glad writers like and listen to different genres of music. If we all felt the same, about music or about anything, the world would be so boring and so would the books.     For me, it has more to do with how… Read more »
Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
You’re right on the money, Jill, it’s the diversity of all our creative heads and what we hear when we work that counts!  Love that you could get the “coolness” of the @Digifiddler:disqus piece, too — Todd is anything but stodgy, and so am I , for that matter … I was interviewing everybody from Sting to the Thompson Twins, Belinda Carlisle of the GoGos, and lots of folks as a features journalist for years.  In fact, if you can get hold of one of the kids’ best pairs of headphones tonight at 7pET / 4pPT, check out this live concert that @Q2Music:disqus will… Read more »
Nancy Smith
4 years 7 months ago

I like writing to jazz. A little John Coltrane goes a long way for creative inspiration, in my book. Radiohead has the same effect, although the scenes look slightly different. 
But I’ve also used Metallica, when I have to write a particularly violent or angry scene. Keeping my pulse going seems to churn it out.

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Totally cool that you’ve mentioned jazz, Nancy. Me, too. I love Eldar (who is anything but eldEr, he’s only about 25, maybe younger), and you know who I got back into lately is Jon Hassell. His best piece? Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street. I mean, can you beat that? Gorgeous, intoxicating, long, languid cuts, a remarkable artist and his ensemble is amazing, do check it out. Preview it here, it’s the title of the album, too, and it’s the fourth track. http://ow.ly/75Igw Thanks for commenting!   ** This comment was written while listening to Alexina… Read more »
kathleen pooler
kathleen pooler
4 years 7 months ago
I love this topic,Porter! Music transports me back to another time and place. When I want to recapture my 20’s ,I go back to 60’s music, with lyrics,etc. But if I need to focus my writing, lyrics are distracting and tuning into Prestini (as above) would do the trick in helping me to get into a writing zone and staying focused. About 5 years ago,I took up piano lessons after quitting in an adolescent snit~ 45 years prior. I must say, sitting down and playing contemporary or classical music (to the best of my ability)is another way those creative juices… Read more »
Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Hey, Kathy! Great to have you “chime” in here, and I like that you’ve brought yet another important element of musical potential to the table here — the time-travel factor. Isn’t it amazing how music can reconnect you to a moment in your own life, or to a time and place we now know really only through such sensory clues (as with the scoring that Jeff Beal did for the (ancient) “Rome” seies. Modernized work, of course, but with effects of archaic — to our ears — resonance, so effective. Similarly, I found Trevor Morris’ work for the Showtime “The… Read more »
Florence Fois
Florence Fois
4 years 7 months ago

When the muse strikes me, I am likely to go in all directions. However, straight on ’till morning might work for Peter, but what’s out there today can even destroy pixie dust. I go back a few years, and the moods of blues, yes the classics, and the poet/writers of my generation still stir up my gray cells. The hack of so much today only stirs up a migrane. Thanks for another snark post 🙂

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Oh, gosh, how well I hear you, Florence. Here’s something you might actually love. A German filmmaker named Tom Tykwer who’s also a composer. His score for his own film Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is one of the most beautiful you’ll ever hear. The film itself is incredible, an adaptation of Patrick Suskind’s difficult novel. But the music — utterly transporting. Lush, rich, must have used double forces when the Berlin Phil recorded it. You can sample some of the sounds of that soundtrack here: http://ow.ly/75IWu  And thanks for commenting! ** This comment was written while listening to the amazing… Read more »
The Black Howling
The Black Howling
4 years 7 months ago

I’m having a hard time trying to get a scene to line up with a character coming to terms with himself for being ruthless. He is trying to fight it but his mental fortitude is breaking with each person he fights. Any music ideas?

Also I would like some suggestions to music just to write especially for fight scenes

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
What challenging work you’re doing, congratulations!  I want you to check out a piece (you’ll love this title) called Pillaging Music, it’s the top sample here: http://ow.ly/75JzB   This is some of the superb work by a composer named @NicoMuhly:disqus — easily among the very best of the best, in an extraordinarily deep bench of working composers. (We may well be coming into something of a golden age in terms of classical contemporary, the field is huge.) Muhly uses extensive marimba in this piece with piano and other highly effective percussion, producing not only the obvious violence of the topic but also… Read more »
Viki Noe
Viki Noe
4 years 7 months ago
Ah, Porter, you quoted my favorite Noel Coward play, so you had my attention right away. 🙂 This is a topic you and I will have to continue in person, I think, because it’s complex. It really speaks to the process of creating art. It will come as no surprise that my 17 year old daughter listens to music when drawing or painting. We’ve talked about it, and how her art teachers play music during class. There’s a radio station in Chicago whose motto is “the soundtrack of your life”. I find I choose my music dependent on my mood: what is… Read more »
Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Well, don’t quibble, Sybil 🙂 and thanks for the great comment, and for reading, Viki! I believe you’re the first and only writer I’ve ever heard say they write to side 1 of the White Album. As as usual, Noe, you’re in a class of your own. 🙂 The White Album. And as for musical theater, I wouldn’t let Rodgers or Hammerstein close to my writing. I’m just a boy who can say no. 🙂 I would, however, recommend you give @Q2Music a listen when you can. It’s a unique creature on the music landscape and I guarantee it will… Read more »
FreeWheelinUSA
FreeWheelinUSA
4 years 7 months ago

What a great article!  I usually work/write in silence, but I am tempted to give some of the music your recommended a try … as I “mess up my nitties … and … line up my gritties”!  Fun.

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Hey, wonderful – if I’ve prompted you to think about getting some good music into the mix of your process, I’m happy. In fact, your timing is great. Tonight (Saturday), there was a really successful concert in New York of two world premieres and four New York premiers, all by composers in the SONiC Festival. The on-demand recording of that concert will go up tomorrow, Sunday, on the @Q2Music:twitter site. This should be the link: http://ow.ly/75PR7   So check it out when you can — this is just about as new as “new music” can get and several of the pieces (especially “Grindhouse”… Read more »
Jamesmb113
Jamesmb113
4 years 7 months ago
This is a fascinating conversation.  Several years ago (more than 20), I was a budding young violist at a summer music festival.  I had the pleasure of playing in an orchestra conducted by Samuel Adler.  He challenged us to “ditch the dead Europeans” for a year or two, and in our listening and study to focus on contemporary American composers. Not that he was adverse to pop.  He stopped by a dorm party to chat with students a bit.  Hearing The Doors “Break on Through to the Other Side”, he said “this isn’t BAD music”, and proceeded to analyze it. … Read more »
Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Wow. James, what a terrific comment and amazing story. I’m honored you’d share it with us.  And you know what? I may have the perfect composer for you. Do you know Gavin Bryars?  British bassist, incredibly prolific “in a small village in the middle of England,” as he put it in a comment at the @Q2Music:twitter site. Been at it about as long as you’ve been into and out of a fiddle (so glad you’re playing again now).  Gavin has the most astonishing range of output of anybody I know, from his terrifying “The Sinking of the Titanic” (just performed at the… Read more »
Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years 7 months ago
Great post! Thanks for hosting this, Jane, and Porter, thanks for your thought-provoking post… Music is powerful. And it touches something deep in the core. At the same time it is an extremely individual taste. Preferences may change through the course of life, and someone might be influenced to try a new style of music and actually decide to like it. However, for the most part, telling people to “like-this-not-that” will be about as effective as asking them to change their preference in what constitutes “beautiful” in their search for a potential significant other. I was raised on classical music… Read more »
Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago

These are great thoughts, Bill, and I’m especially taken with your point that “whatever a writer may listen to personally needs to be left behind.” Only in very rare cases can music feature “inside” a work in the way it has been factored into a writer’s work with it on the “outside,” in creating.

Glad to learn that our carryings-on here have inspired you to do your own post, too, nice work: http://ow.ly/76bry

**This comment written while listening to @MissyMazzoli:twitter ‘s gorgeous Song From the Uproar on @Q2Music:twitter — amazing work, with the @nycOpera:twitter

Anonymous
Anonymous
4 years 7 months ago

Thank you, Porter, for the encouraging words. Appreciate the link, too! Music is a potent force. It’s nearly always one of the top two topics blogged about on WP, and seems to elicit more comments and more emotion than most other subjects.

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[…] post was inspired by Porter Anderson’s guest post “Why Writers Should Get Over Pop Music” on Jane Friedman’s excellent blog. My comment there turned into this blog. […]

Pat
Pat
4 years 7 months ago

Great post Porter.  Although I am sure you are probably right, to get into my writing zone, I tend to be most inspired by R&B, jazz and soul…reminds of the good ol’ days when the basketball beat ruled my life.

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago

Not a thing wrong with the good old days or your music, Pat, if that’s what puts you in the frame. Just keep in mind that alternatives out there … basketball beats you haven’t heard yet. Good stuff when you’re ready. Cheers 🙂

**This comment written while listening to “Believing” by Julia Wolfe on @Q2Music:twitter

Molly Spring
Molly Spring
4 years 7 months ago
I always listen to music while writing (while doing anything, really). I don’t listen to a lot of classical, but your post has prompted me to check out some of your suggestions. I don’t want to write off popular music just yet (though my tastes are eclectic and I’m thinking of a wide interpretation of that genre). I think that there’s something to be said for packing that much emotional resonance in such a small or simple form. In fact, I find that I often daydream about writing characters out of the subjects in my favorite songs, building a world… Read more »
Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Hey, Molly, thanks for commenting! And no, don’t write off popular music. After all, I’ve pitched this post a little high just to be sure folks sat up and really thought about it, not to suggest, for example, that some of our jazz artists who may live closer to pop than classical in the public mind, aren’t fantastic artists. I was just singing the praises of Jon Hassell to another of our commenters. And I’ll tell you that if I can get to one of @JesseCooker:twitter ‘s performances, I’ll be there. (Amazing Mediterranean-style guitarist with a very upmarket pop flare,… Read more »
Shannon
Shannon
4 years 7 months ago
This article is spot on. Reading this was not only inspiring and truthful but very accurate of the way pop music tends to lend it’s rancid lyrics to writing styles. I believe that music should come from the soul; it needs to stir emotion. If your writing a fictional work/historical fiction I find Composer’s John Williams and Alexandre Desplat from the Harry Potter soundtracks bring my writing to life. Or if your truly in a seasonal mood Bram Stoker’s musical composition has just the right amount of eerie and fast past melody to shake up your creative juices. For brain… Read more »
Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago

Super range of eras and styles here, @Shannon:disqus , glad you mentioned the Gershwins and @ChrisBotti:twitter (he’s incredible). You’re right, so much to listen to. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting.

Ekari Mbvundula
Ekari Mbvundula
4 years 7 months ago

Music has definitely contributed to many of my more passionate ideas. Excellent post! My favorite was TransAmerica. It evoked so many images that are just waiting to be strung together in a plot!

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
We’re giving @DigiFiddler:twitter a big head here, lol.  Hey, Ekari, sorry not to get back to you sooner (you guys have outdone yourselves on comments!!). So glad  you like “Transamerica,” isn’t it grand? Remember, it’s part of Todd Reynolds’ album “Outerborough,” his first solo outing. (Can you believe that work is solo?) http://ow.ly/77DTN  — a fine achievement.  And I’m sure we’d all like to hear what becomes of that plot you’re thinking of working up from it. Do keep us informed. I’m always (and I mean always) at @Porter_Anderson:twitter on Twitter and here at the generous @JaneFriedman:twitter ‘s concert hall… Read more »
Ekari Mbvundula
Ekari Mbvundula
4 years 7 months ago
Wow, the comment format is ca-raaaazy! Lol, but luckily I eventually found your reply. TransAmerica seemed to awaken in my mind scenes of dancing/fighting/fighting-that-looks-like-dancing between two beautiful people, the pacing going fast and slow as the music does. Their story could be one of betrayal – or maybe one of them doesn’t want to fight the other, but has to because of external forces. So they’re torn between their duties and not wanting to hurt each other… hehe, I think thats the playwright in me talking now! I’m following you on twitter now, and I will check out your other… Read more »
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[…] may have guessed from the aforementioned quote and the title of this post, I agree partially with this post on Jane Friedman’s blog by Porter Anderson: pop music will ruin your brain, and you should remove it from your writing studio posthaste. […]

Ardal Powell
4 years 7 months ago

I am musically handicapped: having grown up a musician and the son of musicians, music absorbs my full attention and I still can’t listen with only half an ear. I’m the pest who asks for the ambient restaurant soundtrack to be turned down so I can hear the conversation; I flee retail environments infected with thumping trash-sound; music while driving makes me miss my exit … The only thing I can do while music sounds is ironing. The tracks posted here are well worth the listening–which I will do after work, in full. Thanks for posting them!

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Hey, Ardal, know exactly what you mean. I’m still amazed that we’re supposed to shop for food in supermarkets playing 60-year-old rock music. 🙂  I’m listening to the most beautiful guitar work right now on Q2, you might like it, too. The sort of thing to stop and pay attention to completely, a work called Koyunbaba, “Homage to a saint,” by the great Italian guitarist and composer Carlo Domeniconi (now in his early 60s). Gorgeous work. The guitarist is Celia Linde. It’s on this album, in case you’re interested: http://ow.ly/77EkH  Thanks for reading and for commenting — and all the… Read more »
Lancelot
4 years 7 months ago

Have you tried Eric Whitacre? He’s amazing.

Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago

Indeed, @EricWhitacre:twitter  is one of my favorite people, I know him and like his music a great deal. He’s in Bilbao next month and Rome in December, you know. Did you know his wife is @HilaPlitmann:disqus  ? — Terrific soprano. She’s featured in this recording of Christopher Theofanidis’ The Here and Now, wonderful work http://ow.ly/77z1u and she did the voices for @HansZimmerMusic:twitter ‘s Da Vinci Code soundtrack. Eric and Hila are super. Have you heard his new CD?  http://ow.ly/77zej

**This comment written while listening to Son of Chamber Symphony by John Adams on @Q2Music:twitter

Terre Britton
Terre Britton
4 years 7 months ago
Porter, such a terrific article. Your reference to alchemy is apt. That sacred mix of creation: laying yourself bare to inspiration—from one source or another—and dancing the dervish with your Muse. Pure magic!   I’m with Cyndi Pauwels, I can’t write to music that has lyrics, with the exception that you mentioned, Porter: certain choral arrangements, where the voices become instruments, themselves. (Listening to music while painting is an entirely different story.)   I started listening to classical and opera in college, because 80’s music held little interest for me. I fell in love with Vivaldi & Rossini, and know… Read more »
Porter Anderson
4 years 7 months ago
Thanks for all the input, Terre, and the great account of your experience of Q2 Music. While I approach Q2 mainly as a writer/listener, when I look at it from the critic’s standpoint, I think what we’re seeing (and what you’re responding to) is a very unusual lucky confluence of an amazing amount of compositional talent. Much of it’s based in New York, but there are hubs, of course, in Reykjavik and Rome, London, and other spots. The really happy aspect of this big Montmartre-in-the-making is that Q2 Music has been perfectly timed by its parent, WQXR, to not only… Read more »
Terre Britton
4 years 6 months ago

Thanks for the background on Q2; online radio has certainly taken long strides over the past few years. Being a semi-geek attached to my computer at the wrists for the greater part of each day, I’m grateful for the ubiquitous sounds of Q2 that stream through my headphones or BOSE and carry, or drive, me forward. 
Thanks again for introducing me to such fine musicians, composers and knowledgeable hosts.
All the best,
Terre

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[…] All of Amazon is watchable here, so now for something completely different: Music bought by customers who also bought recordings of the compositions of Nico Muhly, an American composer whose work is particularly nourishing to writers. […]

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