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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Writing: The Soundtrack

Had a good morning of writing so far today. 2 pages or so. Wrote four or so yesterday. So, instead of continuing on the productive streak, I thought I'd obsess briefly about music.

In a tribute to the power of displacement behavior, I've created what I believe to be the perfect writing soundtrack. I used to be a big needer of quiet: perfect silence had reign all around me for me to write. Now, I honestly crave some background noise. If the noise is created by me--i.e., music I have specifically chosen and associate with writing--this is much better than random noises that I can't control.

The current soundtrack is a little short, but otherwise I think awesome. The songs are all songs that a) have some thematic connection to writing or b) aren't so distracting that they can't fade beautifully and atmospherically into the back of my consciousness. As anyone who knows me knows, I like melancholy songs, damp with sonic atmosphere, bleating guitars, plincky-plonky piano solos and trembling voices. For writing, this is perfect. I don't have to feel apologetic for my sad mixes. I tend to make playlists entitled "Spring Happy Mix" only to put the songs on and have friends say, "What is this? The wrist-slitting soundtrack?" But for writing I can get as quiet as I like.

1) Cake, "Open Book." Pretty obvious choice, seeing as how it begins, "She's writing, she's writing, she's writing a novel..." But my first play was called Open Book and...whatever.
2) The Decemberists, "The Engine Driver." Another obvious choice, seeing as how the chorus runs "I am a writer, a writer of fictions..."
3) Devendra Banhart, "At the Hop." If you read gossip magazines, you'll have seen Natalie Portman with her new boyfriend, a bearded and scruffy hipster who looks chic-ly homeless. No one seems to get the relationship, but upon hearing that the boy in question was the author of this song, I got it. This song was on a mix Cybele gave me -- I don't know any of his other music, nor do I want to, because this song breaks my heart. And it fits on my writing mix, because the lyrics are all about the break between imagination and reality (my Great Theme) -- the singer keeps exhorting his love-person to imagine him in various impossible ways: "Pack me in your suitcase...cook me in your breakfast..." He admits that he won't "stop all of my pretending/that's you'll come home/you'll be coming home soon."
4) Neutral Milk Hotel, "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea." Okay, I can't think how this has to do with writing. It's just moody and atmospheric.
5) Radiohead, "All I Need." I was never a big Radiohead fan, but "In Rainbows" is not only a great album, but it's the best album I've come across to write to. It's lovely without being over-the-top and I've done so much writing to this song in particular. It doesn't hurt that the song is also Dead Sexy.
6) Rufus Wainwright, "Imaginary Love." Forget "Poses" or the later stuff. I'm all about his debut, self-titled album. And this song fits in the writing mix because of the "Imaginary" theme...and it's also a dope song. And he doesn't mumble! As much.
7) Ryan Adams, "Sylvia Plath." On the writing playlist for the literary reference, obvs, and also for the Moody and Atmospheric qualities. It's from the "Gold" album and is quite different from his usual guitar-heavy-country-blues-influenced stuff (which I also love). There's just a piano and some strings. The song isn't about Sylvia Plath so much as Adam's evocation of "a Sylvia Plath" that he "wishes" he had: "busted tooth and a smile...with cigarette ashes in her drink/the kind that goes out/and then sleeps for a week." There's something incredibly charming about his imaginary lady: she's a mess, but she's awesome. The fantasy gets more elaborate: "Maybe she'd take me to France/Or maybe to Spain/She'd ask me to dance/In a mansion on the top of hill/She'd ash on the carpet/and slip me a pill/And she'd get me pretty loaded on gin." And maybe because I drink a lot of gin-and-tonics up at the cottage, and because I discovered this song up at the cottage, and maybe because I used to ash into my drinks when I smoked, and mostly because of this part: "And she and I/would sleep on a boat/and swim in the sea without clothes/with rain falling fast on the sea/as she was swimming away, she'd be winking at me/Telling me that it would be all be okay/On the horizon and fading away/And I'd swim to the boat and I'd laugh/Gotta get me a Sylvia Plath" this song really reminds me of being up at the cottage, going skinny dipping, going out in the boat. I'm pretty sure the swimming part is actually about death, but nevertheless, the song makes me feel happy and peaceful, not sad at all.
8) Modest Mouse, "Dance Hall." Name check!: "Woke up this morning/Seemed to me/That every night turns out to be/ A little bit more like Bukowski/And yeah I know he's a pretty good read/but God who'd want to be...such an asshole." Says it all.
9) New Order, "Age of Consent." Okay, I just like this song.
10) Radiohead, "Videotape." Also great for writing to. And it sort of fits! "When I'm at the pearly gates/This'll be on my videotape." Good song to end a mix to.

So obviously I'm procrastinating. I've also made several mixes for friends: Jake (belated birthday present -- also, guilt trip. Give me music!); Min (I made you a cheerful mix, I swear); and Dan. Anyone else want one?

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