Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Play Lists for Writing and Idea Gathering

Sheet MusicA lot of writers create specific play lists to put them in the mood when they write.

I don’t. I may choose a particular album or artist to write by fairly regularly, but I haven’t yet taken the time to choose a defined set of music for a project. It’s partially because I’m lazy – I don’t want to weed through thousands of songs to choose a small subset. Choosing would be hard!

Mostly, it’s because I don’t want to be limited.

What I like to do is decide how I’m feeling, or what it is I want to feel, and then I search my music database for songs which might match the mood. I say “might” because no database search is without its anomalies. You never know what you might find.

And this is a good thing.

For instance, yesterday I didn’t know what I wanted to listen to while I wrote. When I looked out the window, all I could see was the snow (and more coming down). No sun. No birds. A barren landscape.

A search for “barren” in my database found zilch, so I went with the more generic, “white” for the snow.

My database found 45 songs with white in either the title, the band name, or the the musicians’, producers’ or composers’ names. Songs were offered up by both Judas Priest (White Heat, Red Hot) and David Arkenstone (Nantucket).

There were several bands on the list I hadn’t listened to in YEARS (Crack the Sky, Yes, Def Leppard…)

It sounds like an atrocious mix, but I assure you it wasn’t. I was concentrating on the writing, not the music, after all. It didn’t matter when the music changed from red-hot-metal to new age. For the most part, it didn’t break the flow of writing.

Afterward, I looked at the list more closely. Those songs that used to mean something to me that I haven’t played in years…they gave me some ideas to play with: some writing ideas.

I knew I’d stumbled on to something good.

Do you use play lists? How do you choose and narrow down the songs for a work in progress?

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