08.19.08

Music & writing

Posted in Life in general, On writing, Writers at 9:49 am by Marion

Talking with a friend yesterday gave me a chance to tell someone about the two volumes of Debussy (complete works for piano, by Jean-Yves Thibaudet) that have just come in the mail. They’re loaded onto my iPod and have already gotten some serious airtime.

Music is like breathing to me. No, I’m not myself in any way musical, and struggle as a writer to bring melody and sonority to my words. For years I was a clarinet player, in wind ensemble and even one summer at Governor’s School in an orchestra. What an eye-opening experience to play Bartok, Ligeti and Respighi at 17 years old!

I was not, however, in any way a standout.

Today, music allows me to find peace when my insides are churning. Interviews, talking and visiting empty me. Writing pulls everything out of my brain. Sitting at a desk all day makes my physical self feel alien. All of these forces leave me a stranger in this world.

Many writers, I believe, get exhausted by the world and their work … just look at the ranks of alcoholics, smokers and opium users. Fortunately, I don’t turn that way. So what’s left? Well, the little writers secret we don’t talk about is food … and that’s often the way we will replace what writing takes out of us. That’s no good, either.

After years’ struggling to know how to restore some sense of peace and wholeness, I realized it’s been there all along. Music. My mother played Debussy on the piano when I was a small child, and I still remember seeing white stuff when she played “Snowflakes are Dancing.” At 13 years old, “Ancient Airs and Dances” was my first “classical” LP, and at 16, I discovered Gershwin.

Of course, pop music of all kids followed me through those years … in college, I played Joe Jackson’s “Night and Day” every single day after classes, before trudging back to campus to close down the library each night. That record … the LP I mean … now resides in my iPod, recorded, with scratches intact.

These days, listening to Debussy piano music is like breathing fresh air, one strain at the time. I also drink up Joshua Bell … anything he plays, really, but especially his collections. Yo Yo Ma, the Unaccompanied Cello Suites, is also a favorite.

I had to trade in my old iPod yesterday for a new one (I had a “replacement plan,” thank goodness; the battery stopped working). Today, it’s sooped up with all four discs of Debussy, all the Joshua Bell I own, Beck and Madonna and yes, Joe Jackson.

You never know what kind of day it’s going to be.

1 Comment

  1. Gene-o said,

    August 19, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Interesting to know where a fellow writer finds refreshment for the body and soul. Mine is exercise and reading, although you make me want to give music a spin too.