Theme Tune to My Un-Life

Many authors name music as a major inspiration for their work: they have a theme song for their lead character, they create a specific playlist for drafting each book, they have go-to songs for particular types of scene. I am the other kind of author.

Rebecca Linam’s forthcoming article on music influencing writing in Issue 4 of Mythaxis Review Platform reminded me how hard I find it to link music to projects. I listen to music while writing but it’s the same collection of music set to random that I listen to while doing other things too; in fact, the closest to specific music for a specific task I get is listening to the radio while in the kitchen; and that is at least partially because cooking and eating a meal is a convenient block of time to run a resource-intensive task on my computer such as a back-up or virus scan.

A drawing of a Victorian gentleman with an ear-trumpet mounted on his cane
Do you wish to gather plot ideas while still seeming to be a dapper gentleman? Try the new Davetopia Ear Cane!
Ephemeral ScrapsCC BY 2.0)

With theme songs being a topic of discussion in both the writing and roleplaying communities, I attempt it again periodically and each time find myself disappearing down a rabbit hole of songs that I might enjoy but that aren’t right. For example, one of my current characters is a lone-wolf warrior in a pre-industrial society who has a strong faith in his god: I can find plenty of songs about lone wolves who struggle against their flaws or embrace their selfishness, but nothing that captures personal excellence as a virtue; similarly, there are plenty of songs that evoke the militant surrender to the Abrahamic God, including pro-military songs extolling the just war, but not martial prowess as a virtue itself. The closest I’ve come has been in rap and the punk end of alternative, but they are very much modern songs featuring guns, mobile phones, and cruising the streets; the spirit of rejecting society for a vision of personal prowess is right but all the references to technology drown the universal parallel with spiritual warriors everywhen.

Which reveals my issue: a major—if not the—source of my ideas is a everything I experience every day sinking into my unconscious, swirling and mixing, and emerging a random length of time later as a gestalt of two or more things; so, all those songs are, literally, half of the story rather than the whole. That wouldn’t necessary be fatal to their use, save that after years training and working as a lawyer, part of my mind automatically seeks to highlight differences between things.

Thus, I play the same immense mix of Goth, jazz, classical, folk, and many other genres in infinite variations; and it works for me precisely because it’s not supposed to represent a character, a scene, or the story as a whole so the fact it doesn’t passes over me and through me.

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