Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Shakespeare: The Marriage of Music and Writing

By Christina Freitas

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” A pretty hefty statement, I think, for a man engaged in the art of making his words serve the same purpose. Yet there’s an intrinsic truth to his words, one that has been noted by countless artists, a creative mesh of two extraordinarily similar artistic spheres. Not all music has lyrics, but all language has a rhythm, a beat, a musical quality of its own. It’s a match made in heaven. Or more accurately, a match made in imaginative minds.

"I was raised on rock."
- The Scorpions
Inspiration doesn’t just evolve from one mode of thinking; it trickles from several tributaries, integrating its influence in countless ways, through art, literature, history, science. From worlds so closely intertwined, an author can garner as much meaning from a three-minute song as a country singer can wrangle from the depths of a twenty-line poem. This symbiosis is evident in  It’s Only Rock and Roll: An Anthology of Rock and Roll Stories by Janice Eidus and John Kastan. This title combines the legacy of rock and roll, the pulsing power of its music, and echoes these feelings through language, built on characters and conflicts, rather than melodious, sometimes jarring, chords splayed across bars and time signatures.

There’s a lot to love in music and literature, and I’m not shy in admitting that I've always felt music lends itself to writing. Not just lyrics, which can serve as stories all their own, but also the very feel of the beat drumming inside our heads, stirring up all sorts of chaotic creativity until we cannot help but let it explode, let it fall on the page.

I don't make Vulcan symbols
while I'm writing. I promise.

When I write, I prefer to do so under the backdrop of some melody, one that reflects the mood I’m searching for, the scene I’ve crafted. My heart beats for rock and roll, the fevered thump of the drum, the rasp and wail of the guitar, the continuous energy emanating from every chorus, every chord. Of course, that doesn’t mean I completely ignore other musical styles. You’re actually more likely to find me typing away to an orchestral soundtrack than anything else! Which is a little odd, considering my most recent soundtrack obsession is that of Star Trek Into Darkness, and I don't quite write science fiction.

Still, I like to profile my characters in song, create a soundtrack that reflects on their lives, their personalities and their tastes. Dig around inside their head. Map out a story of their life, but in music. In many ways, I feel music can do that – tell the story of a man, or a woman, in just a few minutes, little snapshots, novellas from the pen of a musical writer. It’s no wonder that authors and artists have found common ground over the years.

Of course, music and writing are not entirely the same. There are intricacies inherent to music that cannot be duplicated on the page, just as there are limits to how much a story can translate into three or four musical minutes. One can never replace the other and for all their similarities, we would suffer as much in a world without music as we would suffer in a world without books. Luckily, we can have both, and still admire the thin trails connecting so many artistic expressions across the years, just as Eidus and Kastan have done in their brilliant anthology of a musical era that just keeps on rolling.

Do you have any thoughts on the wonderful collaboration of music and books? Are there any particular songs, or a specific genre of music, that have ever inspired you to write, or served as a suitable soundtrack to a book you’re reading? Share your comments with us here or join us on Twitter @GodinePub. For more information about It’s Only Rock and Roll, please be sure to visit our website!

No comments:

Post a Comment