Do you listen to music while you write? Or while you read? Work? Play?

Recently, I’ve seen authors include their Play Lists either in the fronts or backs of their books, presenting the music that inspired them while they wrote.

I’d love to be able to do that, too, but I can’t listen to music while I do anything else that requires significant concentration.

A lot of people say that music helps them get in the mood, or helps them focus or concentrate. For some, it helps to shut out other noises and activities that would divert their attention. For others it dispels a quiet and an emptiness that is a distraction in itself.

But music is itself the distraction for me. I’m not sure if it’s because I had a fair amount of musical training or if it’s simply that I have a compulsively analytical mind. Music never fades into the background for me the way it seems to do for many people.

Even while I try not to pay attention, my mind starts picking up on the rhythm pattern, the key, the musical hooks, any dissonances or other unusual features. If the music has words, I try to sing along, even though damage to my vocal cords from a couple of sinus surgeries has reduced my once almost four-octave range to a croaky octave and a half.

I love to feel the way the words fit into the music and interact with the rhythm. I can’t help but analyze the chord changes, the interesting riffs and odd bass runs, the melodic highlights and the mood set by the percussion.

Doesn’t matter whether it’s classical, rock, pop, hip-hop, jazz, whatever. You play, I’ll listen. And analyze. The only instrument I play is guitar, but if I’m listening to an orchestral work, that doesn’t stop me from picking through the rippling swells of the violins, the rushing force of the lighter woodwinds, the contained bellow of the brass and the romping beat of the percussion.

Sometimes even when there is no music playing, I hear it in my head, and my mind wraps around the notes, picking them out on the fretboard of an air guitar, adding vocals in my mind...

Wait. I’m supposed to be writing a blog entry right now.

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Comment by Dana King on July 24, 2008 at 3:56am
I can listen to some types of music when I'm working on a draft, but I need silence for editing. Part of that is because I used to be a musician and--like you--I wind uphaving to LISTEN too much. I also depend a lot on the cadence and sounds of the words themselves in my writing, and need to have my head clear of anything else so I can listen to what I'm working, whether in my head or aloud.

Bruckner works well when I'm drafting. Classical (Moazrt, Haydn, some Beethoven or Brahms) or Baroque also works sometimes. Nothing with lyrics, unless they're in a language other than English.

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