21 Apr

Mood Music

Posted in Creativity, DIY MFA, Music, Writing

This past week we’ve discussed how to set the mood for writing through reading, collage, color theory and writing rituals.  Today I want to talk about music.

I’ve played the violin on and off since I was four years old, and music has been a central part of my life for even longer than that.  I love music that tells a story.  Here’s a list of the essentials in my music library.

  • The Four Seasons by Vivaldi.
    This classic piece of music sets the tone for each of the four seasons.  For a different take on this piece, check out the recording by Il Giardino Armonico, where the orchestra plays entirely on period instruments but give the piece a contemporary, edgy feel. 
  • The Planets by Holst.
    In this piece, each movement represents one of the planets.  The music captures the personality and sets the mood for each planet.  
  • Such Sweet Thunder by Duke Ellington.
    This jazz suite is based on various plays by William Shakespeare.  Each track represents one play or one set of characters from Shakespeare’s plays.  My favorite is “Up and Down” where the different pairs of instruments are supposed to depict the different couple pairings in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” by Beethoven
    In my opinion the most beautiful piece of music ever written, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony captures the mood of a day in the countryside, complete with waterfalls and streams, a country village and a thunderstorm.
  •  Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens
    A great piece–especially for introducing newcomers to classical music–the Carnival of the Animals captures the feeling of being in a carnival.  From the lion to the aquarium to the aviary, each movement of the piece represents one group of animals in the carnival.  A great recording of this is the one conducted and narrated by Bernstein where he explains each of the movements and what to listen for (a great recording for introducing kids to classical music).

If I had to limit my inspirational writing music to just five albums, these would be the ones I’d choose (and it would be a tough choice because I left off some of my absolute favorite pieces).  I chose these five because I feel like they give me the most mileage for my writing.

Homework: Today I’d like you to choose a piece of music and listen–really listen–for at least one track.  Try to hear the story being told in the music.  If you’re not sure of a piece to choose, feel free to borrow one of my selections above.  After listening, jot down a few notes so you remember the story you heard in the music.

Then tell me how it went.  What piece did you choose?  What did you hear in the music?  What story did it tell you?


Comments on this post

  1. Liz Fichera says:

    The Four Seasons by Vivaldi is one of my all-time faves. I can close my eyes and listen to it all day. I hear love, lost loves, and new beginnings in that music. It's so rich.

    1. Ghenet Myrthil says:

      I don't listen to much classical music (though I enjoy it when I do) so when I'm inspired by music, it's usually music with lyrics. There are songs that have moved me and made me want to know (or even create) the story behind the words.

      1. Elizabeth Mueller says:

        Whoa! 4? Amazing. I bet you made your family proud of you! I would be thrilled if my kids picked something up at such a young age and showed so much passion for it.

        My teengirl plays the violin, too. She enjoys it, but doesn't get lost in it. *sigh*


        1. Samantha Blackwell says:

          I've played piano since I was five, and my wonderful mother has made sure to instill in me a deeply rooted love of music. So, I loved this post.
          I listened to "She Loves Me Not" by Papa Roach. I hear a story that is too common in our world. Tow people who can't communicate, and their relationship is in shreds. And neither one cares one way or another about how it goes anymore.

          1. Kerryn Angell says:

            I love John Butler Trio's song Fire In The Sky. The music really draws me in and I hear a story of peace and protection layered with frustration. I don't really listen to classical music, but I do love alternative and rock that has lyrics but also long stretches of instrumental.

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