Monday, July 19, 2021

Matching the music to the mood

(Image courtesy of Pixabay)

I was at a loss over what to write this week but then, while staring at that little cursor winking as if daring me to come ahead and try my best, my playlist switched to one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful pieces of music ever created for celluloid.

For some reason, Michael Kamen's theme to the TV mini series 'Band of Brothers' affects me deeply. In fact, there is a track on the album in which the voices of his daughter Zoe and singer Maire Brennan accompany the main theme and...well...I'm not saying I was moved to tears, I am from Glasgow, but there was definitely something in my eye.

Some authors don't like music as they write, some can't listen to anything with lyrics but I am one of those scribblers who uses it to assist in the writing process. I will even go to the length of selecting exactly what type of music depending on what I am writing.

Band of Brothers has been on the playlist while putting some finishing touches to an historical thriller I am writing on spec (publishers - please contact my agent!)

Unlike the series, the book is not set during World War 2 but the tone of Kamen's music is just right for the events in my story.

I also listened to the music of Fernando Velasquez, particularly his score for A Monster Calls, and Roque Banos' Alatriste.

You may have guessed that it is predominantly film and tv music I use because that is my preferred genre and I can become very evangelistic about it. I have been listening to it since I was no higher than the on/off switch on the record player but, more importantly, it covers such a wide variety of styles and approaches that I can find any mood accompaniement I want. I insist the people working in the field are among the most talented composers today because they can turn their hand to virtually anything.

I find that selecting the correct sound, or even composer if they have a distinctive style (John Barry springs to mind here), helps me hit the right tone or pace for whatever I'm writing.

Thunder Bay, my first Rebecca Connolly book, was written to John Williams' scores for The Fury and Jane Eyre as well as - poseur alert! - Rachmaninov's Isle of the Dead, which was kind of on the nose given the subject matter but its sense of dark mystery was just right.

The next two in the series, The Blood is Still and A Rattle of Bones, were predominantly soundtracked by Bear McCreary's work for the TV series Outlander. The storylines of both books hark back to events surrounding the 1745 Rising in Scotland so it seemed apposite.

Debbie Wiseman and Rachel Portman were my go to composers for the fourth book, Where Demons Hide, due out in the UK next year. The tone of this one is somewhat lighter and they had just the right touch, tinged with a bit of darkness, that I needed. I also used The Dead Zone - Michael Kamen again - and The Changeling by Ken Wannberg, Howard Blake and Rick Wilkins.

My favourite composer is Jerry Goldsmith and every one of the titles above was written to something from his extensive backlist. Whatever I need - fast-paced, exciting, moving, eerie, romantic - I'll find something that fits the bill. (And as if on cue, one of his tracks - The Edge - began playing as I wrote this paragraph. Movie moment right there).

It has to be admitted that people do tend to zone out when I bang on about the subject. In fact, there will be people who perhaps have clicked away before now. I get that, I totally do. I'm like that when people talk about sport (any sport). Not sport movies, of course, because I love them. I know - go figure.

I told you I was evangelistic on the subject, even to the extent of doing a weekly radio show for a hospital radio station in Glasgow (Radio schedulers, please note - I am available to do it professionally!)

If you are interested, it's on Southern Sound every Saturday at 4pm UK time. 


Arthur Kerns said...

Liked your article and go along with your ideas. When working on my WWII novel I tune into SiriusXM 40s music. The off-beat FBI novel situated in Hollywood I'm working on now, I go to Soundscapes, light . contemporary jazz.

Douglas Skelton said...

Yes, it helps us but I understand authors who can't have anything playing in the background.