Music & Writing
I came to write something about the link between music and writing through two separate avenues.
First, I was given a CD by Ed Sheeran for Christmas. Not having my finger on the popular music pulse, I hadn’t heard of him. (Feel better about that now I know he’s just won the Best Breakthrough Act at the Brits – he is new.) I started listening to the music and found I loved it. I like the combination of guitar melodies set against rap-style lyrics. Also when I listened more carefully, I grew interested in the words. In Grade 8, he sings about ‘Your body is my ballpoint pen and your mind is my new best friend.’ Those images work for me as a way of describing the intense experience of being in love where you feel able to express yourself and be understood. So, poetry? Yes, I’d say so.
As an aside – I also love his story. Apparently, he watched the concert for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and listening to Eric Clapton playing guitar, he knew that was what he wanted to do. He posted songs on YouTube and Facebook, and sometimes used to sell only five CDs at gigs in pubs. Now, he’s playing at the Diamond Jubilee. What a great success story for anyone trying to make it creatively.
Back to the music/writing link – recently I went to a poetry workshop (no, I’m not a poet, but think the close attention to language and imagery which poets must employ is useful in prose writing as well) where the theme was poetry and music. The idea was to ‘tune your ear to the sound of your words and focus on language’s rich rhythms and sounds’.
One of the tasks was to listen to a piece of music and write for five minutes without stopping, responding to the music, its pace, mood, and moments of change. Then, to take the ideas you’d jotted down and shape them into something. I’m not pretending that what follows is great poetry – or even poetry – so apologies to any real poets who might read this, but I’m amazed at what the mind can – unexpectedly – produce.
The music that I wrote this in response to was by British Sea Power – and no, I hadn’t heard of them either(!) but apparently they’re an indie rock band:
As the nuns chant: ‘Our Father. Our Father’,
Their breath blooms on the night’s branches.
As the nuns chant: ‘Trespass. Tresspass’,
Their rosaries tremble in the candles’ glow.
As the nuns chant: ‘Sin. Sin’,
The pulpit frowns and shakes its head.
As the nuns chant: ‘Mercy. Mercy’,
The altar draws its curtains shut.
The wages of sin are death.
Death that doesn’t slip across the rimed hedgerow,
Slither secretly through the heavy oak door,
But crashes it back on its hinges:
‘I’m here!’ it announces.
The old nun shivers as she slips to the floor,
The night’s branches blacker without her bloom,
And winter’s frost shrouds the church.
Five minutes listening to a piece of music, fifteen minutes writing! A great exercise. Let me know what you think.
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