A few weeks ago my husband and I went to another phenomenal concert by the fabulous folk singer Kate Rusby, and as I sat there, her voice filling every part of my being, it got me thinking …. Anxious however not to waste a moment of the concert I parked the thought in my brain’s blog post compartment, ready to revisit at another time…
Like books, songs have a tale to tell, and even music with no words can conjure up moods and images, and as I sat there that night I was reminded of a time many years ago when I suddenly found for the first time a piece of music whose story I wanted to tell, and more importantly a piece of music that wanted to tell my story ….
Back when I was in my teens, and through into young adulthood, I read a lot of fantasy books, David Edding’s Belgariad and Terry Brooks Shannara series being my favourite books. I was writing back then too, and had started a novel of my own (it's still in a drawer somewhere) and I found myself having the most amazing dreams. Possibly this was an outlet for my over active imagination, but the theme of these dreams was all very similar, the triumph of good over evil. Now, I'm a green eyed redhead, so maybe it was my ancestry at work, but I liked nothing better than to rampage over castle ramparts, brandishing a flaming torch ready to take on the baddies. I always won, I was utterly invincible. Now before you get all analytical on me, whatever these dreams said about my psyche, they were immensely good book plot fodder, and as I was at home writing one weekend, that's when I found the perfect piece of music. My Dad had just bought the album Tubular Bells 2 by Mike Oldfield, and as it played in the background the track ‘Tattoo’ came on. At this point you probably need to go away and listen to it and then come back and see if you agree with me, but suddenly, there it was, the perfect piece of music for my little army of characters to vanquish all evil. This was the piece of music where good triumphed, where my near defeated characters found strength in numbers, and where they became invincible; the scene wrote itself like a dream, in every sense of the word.
So back to the Kate Rusby concert… This particular concert featured songs from Kate’s latest album ‘Ghost’ and the title track is a haunting tale of a girl who falls in love with the ghost who comes to her every night; a ghost who leaves her by the morning, yearning for a love that she can never have. It's a song that Kate wrote herself, featuring just her voice and her piano playing, but from the very opening bars of music, the tale starts to tell itself, so powerful is the arrangement, the music is the story. Kate has such a beautiful voice, and listening to her I knew without a doubt that if I ever needed to write a scene dealing with the pain of lost love, that I need only to listen to this track and I’d be nine tenths of the way there to writing it.
With these thoughts in mind, I listened to the album Ghost again recently, and let's just say if you're a woman with revenge on her mind listen to the last verse of ‘The Outlandish Knight’ ….
So when you write what’s your accompaniment? Do you sit in total silence, or is the radio burbling in the background? Is Meatloaf belting out ‘Bat out of Hell,’ or is Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto soaring all around you. Do you even care? Is it simply a question of noise, or no noise, or do you deliberately choose an accompaniment? I think from now on I might pay closer attention what music I listen to, or more importantly when I listen to it. Music I’ve found can be a wonderful muse.