Sep 28, 2014

Sunday Flood: Music to Inspire, and Music You Can Write To

"1982," Illustration by Diego Lara Saltos

Part I. Music to Inspire.

My love affair with music began at the age of 12, when I bought Pink Floyd's A Momentary Lapse of Reason (these days I enjoy Ummagumma and Atom Heart Mother a lot more). Then I discovered The Cure -- lucky me, their best album came out in 1989, precisely when I had a little pocket money to spare. Though I became a metal fan early on, I explored The Cure's back catalog as time and finance permitted.

I don't have any hangups about what constitutes "real" music. All music is real, in the sense that it exists. What I can't abide is music-by-the-numbers, stuff that won't sell without a soft porn video to back it up. And no, I am not against porn, I just don't like porn that masquerades as music. Won't name names.

So, you know, fanaticism and exclusion don't work for me. It's good to pay attention to, and enjoy, any kind of sincere music, from Punch to Mike Oldfield to the Master Musicians of Jajouka by way of Orlando di Lasso. And I often need a rich, varied soundtrack to take me where I want to go with my writing. If music be the color of human emotion, then I want to work with a full palette.

What I am about to share with you is the fruit of years and years of musical exploration.

Write About Love

The Cure - Lovesong

Ofra Haza - Im Nin'Alu (1978 version)

Fuxan Os Ventos - Meu Amor E Mariñeiro

Madredeus - Vem (Além da Solidão)

Write About Excitement

Juno Reactor - Tanta Pena

The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army

Ratatat - Loud Pipes

Thunderheist - Jerk It

Write About Sadness

These three pieces do bring tears to my eyes.

Henry Purcell: Dido and Aeneas: When I am Laid in Earth (Dido's Lament)

Rachmaninov, The Isle of the Dead

Write About Magic

If you're going to have magic in your story, you have tons of flavors to choose from. Will you make it light and airy? Subtle as a whisper? Do you seek the company of little gnomes wearing acorn caps? Will you go with portentous, demonic and vile? Or just plain weird?

Nordvargr - The Shadows Are Bent by my Presence

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Helpless Corpses Enactment

Faun Fables - A Table Forgotten

Blood Ceremony - Goodbye Gemini

Write About Fear, Violence and Darkness
You know what, I'll just let the music scream and bleed for itself, all right? Let me warn you, however, that the tracks below are the musical equivalent of weapons-grade plutonium.

Melechesh - Rebirth of the Nemesis

Anaal Nathrakh - Paragon Pariah

P.H.O.B.O.S. - Maelström Mani Padme Hum

Part II. Music You Can Write To

For those long stretches where you just want to concentrate and need more of a relaxing sonic envelope that helps you draw from the deep well of imagination.

1. John Coltrane, Lush Life

Love this album to bits. One of the things that's almost impressed me about Coltrane is that you can hear wisdom in his playing -- I don't know how else to describe it.

2. Masada String Trio, "Turel" from Book of Angels vol. 16

It's either jazz masquerading as angel magic or the reverse, and in any case it blows me away. John Zorn pursues some interesting conceptual avenues in his work.

3. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Stabat Mater

Look, I shouldn't have to tell you why this opus constitutes a defining moment in Western music. And yet, and yet. Not only does it touch a universal theme -- the sorrow of a mother who witnesses the death of her son, but Pergolesi also composed it while he was fucking dying from tuberculosis and he still managed to create a work for the ages. Hats off to the man.

4. Pink Floyd, Atom Heart Mother

In case you're looking for something with a bit more bounce than the previous item.

Hard to believe this album once topped the charts all over the world, eh? 1970 sure was different from 2014 in many respects. Pink Floyd recorded this, their fifth studio album, at Abbey Road Studios using fairly new technology with a stern mandate from the record company ("No tape splicing, ye lazy gits!" or something along those lines), which rather complicated matters. These days with all-digital workflows nobody thinks much of cutting and splicing.

Anyway, this is the kind of rock album that happily blends into the background while you wrestle with your story.

5. William Basinski, Vivian & Ondine

Contemporary composer William Basinski specializes in monumental, twilit soundscapes that evolve slowly and blot out the outside world bit by bit. "Hypnotic" would be a good descriptor for once. Some of these compositions he makes available for free but, if you want to part with some dollars to help the man make more music, hey, just do it.

6.  Gabriel Fauré, Requiem op. 48

For reasons I do not fully fathom, Fauré touches me in a way no other composer does. His Requiem is somber but not poisonously dark and, while requiems lament the dead, they also provide an occasion to celebrate life; either this one that we have, or the one post-transition to a different stage, an existence where we finally accede to higher dimensions. Believe what you will.

See you around!

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