From the Archives: The Music of Words

A couple years ago I showed you this incredibly heavy box of music that was sitting in the middle of my kitchen. It represented over a decade of choral music collected by one of our church accompanists. In the same way as I hoard books, she hoards music, and for the same reason – it speaks to her.

She needed to downsize and was returning a portion of her collection. While I sorted through the six hundred-or-so octavos and several music books, I couldn’t ignore other similarities.

Notes build phrases of melody that blend into harmony, creating music that sings in my heart.

Letters become words and sentences, and grow into stories that beguile my imagination.

Both transport me to a new place. The creativity required to produce the best form of both is art, and originates somewhere deep within. When it is well done, it impacts those who listen… and read.

The creativity represented by all this music staggers me. Each song is unique and represents hours, days, months or maybe even years of the composer’s time. More significant is the piece of its creator’s soul that is embedded in the reality of each.

Composing words and music are both forms of writing, totally different, and yet so very much the same.

~

If you are a writer, do you find your creativity spills over into other forms of art?

~  ~  ~

Graphics by digitalart

 

The Music of Words

This incredibly heavy box of music is sitting in the middle of my kitchen. It represents over a decade of choral music collected by one of our church accompanists. In the same way as I hoard books, she hoards music, and for the same reason – it speaks to her.

She needed to downsize and was returning a portion of her collection. While I sorted through the six hundred-or-so octavos and several music books, I couldn’t ignore other similarities.

Notes build phrases of melody that blend into harmony, creating music that sings in my heart.

Letters become words and sentences, and grow into stories that beguile my imagination.

Both transport me to a new place. The creativity required to produce the best form of both is art, and originates somewhere deep within. When it is well done, it impacts those who listen… and read.

The creativity represented by all this music staggers me. Each song is unique and represents hours, days, months or maybe even years of the composer’s time. More significant is the piece of its creator’s soul that is embedded in the reality of each.

Composing words and music are both forms of writing, totally different, and yet so very much the same.

~

If you are a writer, do you find your creativity spills over into other forms of art?

~  ~  ~

Graphics by digitalart

 

I Can’t Write with Surround Sound

If you’re a parent, I’ll bet you can’t count the number of times you’ve told your youngsters to turn off the television, or the computer, or the iPod, and do their homework. And they’ve likely responded with a withering, “I am doing my homework.” Despite our skepticism, if the assignments are completed we don’t argue too strenuously.

There’s an ongoing conversation among writers about the value of music versus silence for effective writing. I’m sure you have an opinion. So does New York Times Bestselling novelist A.J. Hartley. In his post, “The Writer as Multi-tasker” on the Magical Words blog, he advocates silence.

“The short version,” he says, “is that decent productivity and multitasking don’t go together… Turn the music off… Turn the e-mail alerts off… Do one thing at once… Stay on task… You can work with music on? Good for you. Imagine how much more you’ll get done and how much better your work will be when you turn it off…  Writing is about you and the words. Everything else is distraction.”

In commenting on the post Daniel R. Davis says, “Oh, believe me, I can’t listen to music with lyrics at all while writing or trying to focus on anything else. I’m too much of a showboating singer not to sing along, which is incredibly distracting.  So I can relate as far as that goes. However, I’ve found that good, low volume instrumental music through headphones has the same effect on me as a music score in a film does, staying at that subconscious level where it evokes emotion without becoming distracting and that emotion helps to drive the scene forward.”

Personally, most of my writing is done in silence. I’m not able to concentrate in a coffee shop full of people or with music playing in the background unless it’s an instrumental classic played so quietly I’m not consciously aware of it. And if I’m not aware of it I can’t see the point of having it on at all.

So, what’s your opinion? Do you need sound or silence while writing? And if sound, what kind?

Sparks and Roaring Fires

Wind whipped branches into a frenzy and flung their few leaves to the ground. It was a wicked evening — the chill seeping through the glass of windows and french doors and sending me off in search of my sweater.

Before long my husband lit a match and started a fire in the fireplace. As the flames leapt from around the wood with a cheerful crackle, I instantly felt warmer. The room’s temperature couldn’t have changed in those few moments, but the flames’ impact was immediate. The apparent coziness chased away the chill.

During the evening, I stared into the flames, slightly hypnotized (is ‘slightly’ even possible?), and recalled summer evenings at our cabin when the air was still heavy with leftover daytime heat, and yet we dragged lawn chairs from the cabin’s deck down to the lakeshore to sit circled around a campfire. Toasting sticks appeared for weiners and marshmallows, and the little ones clamoured for ‘Smores. We shared a different kind of warmth in that family time together, and made memories to treasure.

Not long before that, the airtight heater in the kitchen of the little cabin was relocated to accommodate a new-to-us cookstove. Oh, the rejoicing when the fire was laid and the pan came out to create our very first cookstove meal. The men took turns poking the lengths of wood into a glowing heap as the cheese melted into gooey goodness and the bread turned golden brown. Yes, it was only grilled cheese sandwiches, but after 37 years without a real kitchen stove in the cabin, it was a momentous occasion.

Last time we were at the cabin, our first few days were spent in choking smoke from a forest fire. It wasn’t all that close to us so we weren’t in any real danger from it, but the smoke that obscured our usual view was part of a raging inferno elsewhere, destroying everything in its path.

I was working on this post, thinking about these various fires, when an e-mail arrived with a video about a “random act of culture” presented last month by the Philadelphia Opera Company in a Macy’s store. As I watched it I reflected on how this random act, like a tiny spark, had the potential for massive impact.

Such moments of unanticipated beauty, or perhaps the gift of a helping hand, a smile and word of encouragement, even the stories we so carefully craft with characters who live, fail, trust and overcome, may have unexpected impact on the lives of others. We may never know about it, but if we ignite the sparks, we allow God an opportunity to fan flames to provide light and warmth for those who may be in great need.

Have you ever given one of your characters the opportunity to do some small act of kindness, helpfulness or generosity? What difference did the gesture make?


Here’s the video I mentioned. I hope you have time to watch it.

Supporting a Young Singer/Songwriter’s Dream

I’m on a musical bandwagon again, drawing your attention to the On the Coast High School Singer/Songwriter Competition currently being hosted by CBC Radio here in Western Canada.

Seventeen-year-old Johnathan Booy, one of our church musicians and the lead singer of the band, Ibhendi that I mentioned last month, has entered the competition, albeit reluctantly. (He’s not happy with the quality of the hasty recording, and admittedly the vocals are difficult to hear, but it’s well worth making the effort.)

I’ve included the lyrics below, and the link to his song is here. I think it’s important to support our youth, and a career in music is Johnathan’s dream. He said the lyrics say something about where he wants to be at the end of his life, satisfied with what he’s accomplished, and are also a message to his grandfather, “who at 76 still can’t decide whether to retire.”

I’m shamelessly plugging him, and hoping you’ll check out the competition and maybe even cast a vote. 🙂  (Voting to determine the top ten finalists closes at midnight Sunday Pacific time.)

~

ENOUGH FOR A LIFE

Look at me now, way up here, up in the clouds

I’m floating, to my resting place

With stars to light my way, and my night that becomes day

I’ve had my chance, to show the world, what I’m about

There’s a time, for all to shine

And a time we must let go, and allow those following us to grow

CHORUS

You see it’s all enough for a life, enough for a life

I know I’ve done enough in my life, I’ve done what I must

Enough for a life


I’ve left behind, my legacy, of which I’m proud

There’s no need to hang on now

To cling to what is done

I cannot live, my life again, or start anew

Remember, I’ve done my part, I’ve loved what’s there to love

And I know it’s been enough

CHORUS

BRIDGE

Enough for a life (repeat)

OUTRO

Look at me now, way up here

~