Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moaning Monks

A lot of writers listen to music when they write. I never did. In fact, I find music so distracting that I couldn’t figure out why anyone would find it helpful. Not that I don’t like music. I love music. And I’ve got very eclectic tastes. I listen to everything from classical to big band to Southern rock to indie. I’ve even *gasp* begun to like some country. But still I never found writing and music to mix.

Then things changed. My writing schedule for the sequel to Screwing Up Time is pretty intense, at least for me. And some days it was hard for me to focus enough creative energy to get my word count. (I write a 1000 words a day, five days a week. A 1000 words is four pages, double-spaced.) I needed something to help me get “into the zone.”

Enter the Moaning Monks. No, that’s not really the name of the group. That’s want my kids call it. I listen to The Lamentations of Jeremiah by Thomas Tallis (1505-1585), which is polyphony and the words are Latin. Not exactly that kind of music that you think would inspire a modern time travel novel. But I don’t listen to the music to develop the “voice” of the novel. I use it to find my creative center. The sad music quiets me and allows the plot of a novel to flow. If you want to put it in literary parlance, it helps me find my muse.

The problem is that I live in a house with five other people who find that the Lamentations do NOT help them with mathematical proofs, chemistry equations, Calc2, and logic. Apparently, different muses respond to different music. (I have been told that Calc2 responds really well to Julian Smith, especially “Racist Coffee.”)

A compromise has been reached. My daughter has now fitted me with an iPod shuffle and ear buds.  And in the end, listening to 16th century music on 21st century equipment is a time travel journey in itself. So maybe it’s not so strange after all.

I've included the Tallis piece and Julian Smith's song. Enjoy the musical time travel.


  1. I love this post!!

    Firstly, I love classical music of a melancholy nature, so you got me there. Right now I'm obsessed with Bach Cantatas, especially Ich Habe Genug (I've had enough) sung by Lorraine Hunt Liebersohn. I pretty much listened to it over and over while working on my latest WIP.
    That and Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun.

    If you like Thomas Tallis, have you ever heard the Benedictine Nuns of Notre Dame? Very beautiful.

    And, well, I've never heard of Julian Smith but Racist Coffee is the most quietly funny "song" I've heard in a long time.

  2. Ron--

    I'll have to look up the nuns on YouTube. Thanks for the recommendation. BTW, Julian Smith has a lot of funny songs. Check out "Malk."

  3. I love what your kids call it! I work well with music, it helps me tune out the world around me and just focus on my writing. I haven't heard this music before but it does sound motivating...in an odd sort of way.

  4. I can't even listen to music wen I'm blogging. Mind you I like Death Metal which is a bit distracting. I listen to BBC Radio 4 a lot which is a speech based station.

  5. Clarissa-- "in an odd sort of way" LOL.

    Tony--thanks for stopping by the blog and commenting.

  6. first one is beautiful! I actually sing with my church choir and they do all the big prayers in latin still- sung in gregorian style. I almost know them by heart now!:)