writing music, the spring 2012 playlist.

I’ve mentioned before that I often put on movie soundtracks when I write. Soundtracks usually have no lyrics to distract me, and they’re designed to invoke moods without tearing the audience away from the story, which makes them well suited for scrivener white noise.

I thought I’d recommend a few of the albums whose sections are starting to wear thin on my hard drive from excessive “Repeat All” play:

Music for the Body in the Bathtub – Kerry Muzzey

I like pretty much everything that Kerry Muzzey puts out, but this one is my favorite of his albums. It’s a bunch of dark, emotional tracks whose titles form a narrative arc. Great for writing noir.

Medal of Honor (EA Game Soundtrack) – Ramin Djawadi

Ramin Djawadi’s soundtrack for the EA game of the same name is loaded with Middle Eastern-themed dynamic and dramatic action tracks. Great for writing action scenes.

True Grit – Carter Burwell

The soundtrack to True Grit is basically the church hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” interpreted in a  dozen different ways, but it works. I don’t write Western, but if I did, this would be perfect background noise for it.

How To Train Your Dragon – John Powell

I love this soundtrack. It’s a really well done blend of Gaelic and Norse influences—pipes and woodwinds and percussion and whatnot. It’s very dynamic and vital, with some very soaring and majestic tracks. Great for “good mood” kind of writing.

Hole In The Paper Sky – Kerry Muzzey

This is my second-favorite Kerry Muzzey album. It’s the soundtrack from a short film of the same name. The tracks are all very low-key and tender, the kind of stuff you’d find over an introspective montage in a movie. Lovely, lovely work.

L.A. Noire – Andrew & Simon Hale

Pretty much the perfect noire writing music, as the title suggests. This is the second game soundtrack on this list—game OSTs have advanced in quality to the point where the best ones can give the very best movie soundtracks a run for the money.

Game of Thrones – Ramin Djawadi

This is the soundtrack for the first season of the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones. PERFECT for writing grimy, moody fantasy where everyone dies horribly. And it was composed by the same guy who did the Medal of Honor soundtrack. Write his name down—he’s going to be a big name in movie scores.

And there you have some recommendations for writing music, in case you suffer from Playlist Fatigue and need some new material in the queue. I linked to the Amazon MP3 versions, where you can preview all the tracks on each album, but most of them are available on iTunes and all the other online music stores too.


"you’ll never fill that one up."

Thanks for all the suggestions for new music.  Keep ’em coming!  I’m assembling a list that should double my iTunes music library.

Here’s the status of my current iPod:


When I bought this thing (a 120GB Classic), the sales guy said that very few people ever fill up a Classic.  As you can see, I’m well on my way.  Those 69GB of video are ninety-eight full-length movies.  I have no idea why exactly I felt compelled to binge on iPod video to such an excessive degree, since I don’t really watch movies on a 2.5″ LCD, but I will tell you this: when the day comes, and I’m stuck at an airport by myself for a week because of weather or terrorism or what-have-you, I’ll be entertained.

(I do watch movies on the PC through iTunes, and I figured I might as well synchronize my entire media library with Mr. iPod, since I have the drive space.)

Another thing the Classic does ably: serve as an external USB drive.  I use it as a tertiary backup for my work files, and as a patch taxi for World of Warcraft.  When Blizzard pushes those 500-1000MB monster updates out, we download them to one of the computers (an act that takes several nights of background downloading over satellite), and then use the iPod to transfer the patches over to the other machine, rather than downloading everything twice, or wasting time copying it over our internal wireless LAN.

We’ve come a long way with personal media players since the 1980s.  I can carry around hundreds of albums and as many full-length flicks in the pocket of my jeans.  Carrying the same amount of music alone in 1983 would have meant schlepping a Walkman, and dragging a steamer trunk full of tapes along with it.

help me fill my ipod.

I am getting fed up with my iTunes library.  My iPod holds 12GB of music, and it feels like I’ve listened to all of it about a hojilion times while writing this novel. 

If you feel like it, leave a comment and recommend your current three favorite albums, and I’ll go seek out what doesn’t already overlap with my stuff.  My library is heavy on movie soundtracks, classical music, and semi-current pop/rock/indie stuff, but I’m open to all genres right now.  What are the last three albums you felt were worth your money?

auditory memory.

When I was driving into town for my Saturday outing, the radio in the car was tuned to a station that was running an Eighties hour.  On the way to West Lebanon, I listened to stuff like “Lucky Star” and “Cover Me”, and I had a sort of auditory flashback.

When I was in my early teenage years, I didn’t have money to buy all the latest tapes and records, so I went the Poor Kid route, and made my own mix tapes off the radio.  This process involves waiting for the song you want to tape, and then frantically dashing to the boom box and mashing the Record button.  The songs on the mixed tapes were usually missing the beginning (because you couldn’t hit that button fast enough), and the end (because the DJ started yakking over the last bit of the song to introduce the next one, so you had to rewind and record the beginning of the next song just before the yakking starts.)

To this day, when I hear one of the Eighties songs featured on my homecooked mix tapes, my brain can still peg the point in the song where the tape cut to the next one, and recall the song that followed on the tape.

Odd thing, that mushy computer between our ears…