So, anyway, the point of this blog and the one preceding it have to do with a discussion of the role music plays in writing for this author. I have already established that I grew up listening to classical (my Mom’s influence) and rock and roll (peer pressure and the times). Not to listen to while I write but to use as inspiration for dreams and ideas. So as with all things, the nature of the music has changed with the passing of times. I still listen to classical, but not so much anymore. I still listen to rock and roll, but that music never did really inspire me to dream. It only made me get all emotional about the past. Must have something to do with growing older.
But I gave some thought to the music I listen to and tried to draw some conclusions about what it is I like and don’t like and why. Nothing, of course, is universally true, but I know, for example, that I don’t much care for either rap or techno or heavy metal. I do like pop, R & B, easy listening – all of these where (1) I can understand what the singers are saying and (2) the sound doesn’t blow me out of the room. This is not to denigrate the music wholesale and suggest others can’t enjoy it. It is only to tell you where I am coming from.
Here’s what I concluded. I like music that tells a story. Who knew, right? Doesn’t have to be complicated or clever, although that helps sometimes, but it does have be at least a part of a story. Also, I have to know what the singer is saying, so I have to be able to understand the words. For the most part, because there are exceptions. As with classical, words don’t always matter to the music. Sometimes the music alone is enough. I can’t tell you how many songs over the years I have listened to over and over without knowing what the name of the song or the artist is. Eventually, I usually find out – but it just doesn’t matter except for purposes of hearing what else the singer has out there.
I think, too, I am always looking for a universality in the lyrics. What are they saying about the world that right away tells me it is true. And I want the music and the lyrics to work together. If the song makes me cry (this happens more and more these days, especially with old favorites), that’s a bonus. I want the music to affect me emotionally. I want it to make me feel something.
All of which is true about writing – both mine and others. When all those building blocks come together, it is just right.
So yesterday and on the two days before, while camped out on various airplanes getting over here to Tasmania, I spent a lit of time with the airplane music, which these days on international flights, at least, is a vast array of choices. I experimented and found a few new artists I sort of like. First Aid Kit; Anike Boh and Hollie; and Adam Lambert come to mind. (Okay, not the last. Even I’m not that clueless.)
But mostly I listened to the singers and music I like most. Here are a few examples:
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors is maybe the best album ever made, song for song terrific, a great mix of voices and lyrics and music.
Elton John – Anything – After all the years he’s been recording, he still surprises me.
Dire Straights – I love Mark knopfler (sp). Who else do you know who can write amazing songs abut shoe salesmen, Jerry Hall, the stock car circuit and the resemblance between talk radio hosts and the circus side-shows of the old days.
The Beatles, the Stones and Joe Cocker – The first two are obvious. On Joe, how can you not love someone with no musical talent who can stand up there and she like and addict and still be mesmerizing? Judine and I saw him in concert with Tina Turner, and it was life transformative.
Adele, Lady Gaga (Hey, I’m not immune to great new voices), Brandie Carlisle, Sarah McLaughlin, Eva Cassidy and Emmylou Harris. They all know how to sing a song and tell a story in a very few words.
Bruce Springsteen – the great American storyteller. Singer of anthems and histories, he uses the power of his lyrics to the best effect in singing about Americana.
Simon & Garfunkel. Damn, how good are they? Heard them in concert in college back in 65 when Sounds of Silence first came out. Everyone knew the song, but almost no one knew who they were yet. Probably do now.
Well, you get the point. That’s a sampling, not a complete list, and there are a whole bunch of others I could throw in, but I think I have to quit for now. The music is calling, and I need to go listen and find something new and wonderful. There are just so many coming along, and I’d hate to miss any of them
And, no, I don’t listen to Turk Murphy and Tony Orlando and Dawn. But my sister and I now share some similar interests in music. Terry