Music for Writing

By Bhalachandra Sahaj

The majority of people today like listening to music. At least, this is the impression I get every time I walk around the city: loads of people are wearing headphones. People tend to listen to music even while doing something else. Personally, I enjoy writing while listening to some background music (imagine yourself being a writer in, say, the 19th century, haha! You would have to go either to a concert hall, or stay at home and write in silence). Music helps me keep focused on my writing, sets a mood, and sometimes even defines the tone and vocabulary I use. writing technique

Anyways, I would like to share some of my favorite writing music with you. Your personal writing playlist may be totally different, but my idea was to suggest my own favorite music that fits certain moods and situations in my writing:

- Lou Reed  “Men of Good Fortune” (helps me get in the needed mood when describing my characters’ life complications, stressful situations, and loneliness)

- Therapy?  “Screamager” (a perfect song to recall all those teenage depressions and summer evening tensions)

- Robbie Williams “Feel” (okay, doesn’t fit in with the previous two, but in fact it’s a really good song when you feel that kind of light sadness or nostalgia. At the same time, it is a very life-asserting song.)

- The Decemberists “Down by the Water” (I don’t know what makes it so special to me. Perhaps the sensation of good old rock n’ roll times that I get every time when I listen to it. Cool for writing about youth, driving across the US in an old Thunderbird, and romantic dramas in motels.)

- Carbon Based Lifeforms (This band is perfect for listening to in the background. Calm ambient music, a bit alien, but beautiful—you can write almost anything while listening to it. It helps me keep focus significantly.)

- Gogol Bordello (Perfect for describing unbridled joy, tragicomical situations, migrants’ daily lives, and what I call “positive absurdity,” when everything goes upside down, but in the end everyone is happy.)

- Solar Fields (Similar to Carbon Based Lifeforms, this music helps you relax and disconnect from the outer world to delve in the reality of your writing.)

- Yamato Ensemble (Japanese orchestra playing traditional music. Great for concentration and productivity. I strongly recommend it.)

- Ikue Asazaki “Obokuri Eeumi” (Another Japanese music representative. One of the most beautiful and touching songs that I’ve ever heard. I don’t understand what they are singing about, but the voice, intonations, and the piano melody makes me believe it’s something about old memories, the past, and regrets, so if it’s your subject, this song will boost you up like nothing else. This song is proof that music doesn’t really need words to express emotions.)

- Nirvana (Inspires me a lot, because I start recalling my high school and college days every time I hear any of their songs. A good choice for writing something about suburban life, a complicated adolescence, father-and-son problems, and so on.)

- Beck “Say Goodbye” (Loneliness, self-contemplation, thinking on a bench in an autumn park, departure, sunset, breaking up—this is what comes to my mind when I listen to this particular song.)

- Tinariven “Toumast Tincha” (A solemn and beautiful song. Listening to it helps me get in the mood of describing some mystical events and experiences.)

- Sacred Spirit (This band’s music is a perfect re-arrangement of Native Americans’ tribal songs. I won’t tell you what to do with it—I am sure you know it yourself.)

- Sheryl Crow “Easy” (A song that makes me look in the future more optimistically.)

- Morcheeba “By the Sea” (Do you ever feel like turning all of your gadgets off, buying a small house right on a beach, and walking along the sea line in misty ocean mornings? Well, this song will definitely make you or your literary characters want to try something like that.)

These are some of the songs that I regularly use to boost my productivity, get inspired, or contribute to my writing process in some way. I hope you enjoy the good music.

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