Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Musical plots

Remember Jump? Not Van Halen, but the Pointer Sisters. It was playing in the car this afternoon and while it's a corny song, it's also a nostalgic one for me. Made me think about how music, good and bad, anchors certain moments in life - at least in retrospect.

I don't usually listen to music (or anything) while writing, but I've done a good deal of plotting while listening to one CD in particular: Jean-Michel Jarre's Rendez Vous. I don't listen to any other electronic music, but for some reason I ended up with Rendez Vous in my collection. 

I found the length (about an hour) ideal for running an entire "movie" of the plot through my head, even if I had no plot when I started. Plot arcs, scenes, emotions and other details emerge out of nowhere with little effort - no matter what the premise - because the musical pieces themselves form the overall structure of a story.

I've tried listening to instrumental movie soundtracks, as they usually include the same broad range of music styles, but unfortunately if I'm familiar with the movie, all my imagination comes up with is that movie. And I can't write at all to music with vocals, as my mind wanders to listen to the lyrics.

One of the pieces in Rendez Vous has an interesting history: it features a soulful sax, and was written for astronaut Ron McNair to be played and recorded in space. This never happened - McNair died in the 1986 Challenger disaster.

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