23 Jun

Writing Through the Senses: Sound

Posted in Music, Writing Exercises, Writing Through The Senses

Hello all and welcome to Writing Through the Senses!

We’ll be talking about sound today and how it can inspire a story.  Let’s start off with a short listening exercise. 

Listening Exercise:   Below you’ll find a series of links to music.  Listen to the first 1-2 minutes of each piece (but don’t watch the accompanying videos; let the music speak for itself.)  While you listen to each piece, note the imagery that comes to mind.  What mood does the music establish?  Which specific sounds inspire each given image?  If you like, post your thoughts in the comments (but don’t read other people’s posts until you’ve had a chance to listen to the music for yourself).

Saint-Saens 1
Saint-Saens 2
Holst 1

Writing Exercise:  Now that we’ve warmed up our ears, choose one of the three pieces below and listen to it all the way through (approx. 8-10 min)  As you listen, make notes again about the mood of the piece and think about what sort of story might go with this music.  If this music were a soundtrack to a story, what would the story be?

Once you’ve listened all the way through, take 10-15minutes and write a scene or story inspired by the music.  If you need to listen to the piece again, feel free to do so but don’t feel like you have to parallel the music exactly.  The music is only here to inspire the story and give you a starting point.

Holst 2

Take-Home Message:  While some writers find it challenging to write and listen to music at the same time, music can be a great writing tool.

Suggestions for Future Listening:  These pieces of music all tell a story or convey a specific mood.  If you don’t have them in your listening library, I highly recommend.

  • Beethoven – 6th (pastoral) Symphony
  • Saint-Saens – Carnival of the Animals
  • Holst – The Planets
  • Vivaldi – 4 Seasons


Comments on this post

  1. salarsenッ says:

    This is neat. I'll have to return when the house is quiet. ";-)

    1. Sonia says:

      Ohh, this brings back memories– I played the Copland piece in marching band in high school!
      The brassiness of "Fanfare" and "Mars" definitely lend themselves to strong characters. The Holst especially seems fitting for a high-drama fight or other such scene, while the Copland reminds me of someone starting over in a better, more powerful position. I love the frenzy at the beginning of the Mussorgsky piece, the beauty of the Saint-Saens works, and the fun flightiness of the Ponchielli. This is a great exercise and way to look at music that I'd never thought of before. Thanks : )

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