Let’s talk about the music

In my last blog I talked briefly about some of the music I listen to as I write and it struck me how my musical tastes have changed over the years.

Long gone are the days in which I listened to the charts or the radio to find new acts to listen to, now it seems that YouTube offers me a greater opportunity to discover music as whenever I log in I seem to have a video by someone I’ve not heard of, on my recommended list.

And YT is excellent at paying attention to what I listen to and suggesting artists of a similar ilk. Thus Mono Inc led me to Lords of the Lost and Arch Enemy led me to Parkway Drive.

That’s not to say that everything I hear is good. I probably turn off more than 50% if there isn’t a melody to catch me and draw me in or I feel that the artist is no better than anything else in their genre. I have a limited capacity for musical types and therefore discard a lot of what I hear as just not being interesting enough.

Some of what I enjoy, bizarrely to some, is stuff I’d not envisaged enjoying five years ago. Screaming vocals where you can’t distinguish the words were never my bag, but now I’ve come to appreciate what they can do when surrounded by the right backing.

I still rely on bands I’ve liked for many years to come up with the goods but now they, like me, are ageing and in some cases are no longer active and I realise that they, like me, must fade away. Yet I always want them to be young again and to produce new music for me to love. It breaks my heart to know I’ll never hear a new Rush album.

And so I find myself a new set of artists to listen to. Kiss, Rush, Dio etc are gone but now Volbeat, Mono Inc, Lords of the Lost etc, will take their place. There will always be room for the oldies, the classics, but time waits for no man. And the music will play on long after I’m here to listen to it.

Aligning words with music

I like to have some music on some days or when writing a specific genre or passage. I know that listening to music is not deemed conducive to writing by some as it can prove to be too much of a distraction and I do tend to agree with that but, quite recently, I have found myself resorting to music more and more by way of giving me emotional support whilst I write.

I’m writing the final book in a series and although the series is humourous (I hope!), I have found this last book more thoughtful and contemplative and sad. Sad because I have grown fond of the characters and the ending is entirely emotional and perhaps unexpected given what has gone before.

The quiet passages, the thoughtful passages have been written to the accompaniment of the ethereal delights of Enya and the extraordinary talent that is Hayley Westenra, whose first two albums are full of lovely songs and some, such as Karl Jenkin’s glorious ‘Benedictus’, which is unimaginably moving in its arrangement.

When I am writing more powerful scenes; scenes full of lively humour and my characters doing some pretty strange stuff, then I need a soundtrack to my words that is full of upbeat rhythms and, given that one of my characters is quite a warlike gentleman, something loud and heavy. It’s at those moments that I let loose the likes of Volbeat, Mono Inc, Parkway Drive and Five Finger Death Punch.

I find I can write to the rhythm of the songs and my words puncture the page slowly and thoughtfully during slow melodic numbers and then achieve a staccato beat when the music gets louder and I find my writing speeding along, keeping time as the words seem to flood the page and I can fill paragraphs and pages with an almost alarming rapidity.

And then I need silence. That time when the words aren’t quite there and I find the lyrics imposing themselves on my writing and becoming almost plagiaristic, something I strive to avoid. Influence yes but not copy.

Do you write? Do you write with music? Perhaps you listen to something more orchestral so as to avoid words in lyrics mingling with the words you wish to place on the page.

Each, as they say, to their own.

Stop the imbalance!

I hate the news!

I hate watching it these days with its constant rash of bad news and scaremongering. Every story is just another curse on humanity. every story is just designed to make you feel that much worse about things.

£400K newsreaders tell you that your energy bills will reach eye watering levels, failing to appreciate that their earnings make them immune. They can afford it and yet they wrong their hands and summon a man earning £250K to explain why it’s happening. It’s greed a lot of the time but the news readers seem unwilling to say that, talking instead of large profits and windfall taxes as though they are good in the first instance and unlikely in the second.

Nobody calls out the greedy. The footballer on £300K a week. The sportsman on a $75 million, five year deal to throw a ball through a hoop. Nobody has the guts to say it’s wrong and call it out. Instead it’s how Mrs S on £175 a week will be able to afford to heat her flat this Winter.

People deserve to be paid and paid well. But society is so imbalanced that it’s become grotesque and obscene. Golfers paid hundreds of millions of dollars to swap a competition for an exhibition, claiming they need it for their families future. It’s lies and greed. They don’t need it at all but the rich get richer and their concerns are not ours. They will survive.

Liz Truss wants tax cuts to help people pay their bills. How does that assist the vulnerable and unemployed? It doesn’t but will help the rich get richer. The more you earn then the more tax you will save. How wonderful. How..divisive. Perhaps they hope that the vulnerable will die off, saving them money in benefits and pensions as well. Cruel? Or realistic?

The worlds horrible. The worlds obscene and ugly. And if we aren’t careful, that imbalance is going to tip us on our heads. The time is now to act and heed that warning. Ignore it at your peril.

I dreamed I was in Egypt…

I call heads!

If I closed my eyes I could almost imagine I was in Egypt once more. Not a single breath of wind, an unnatural stillness seemed to fill the space around me and I was transported back to that land I adore.

The heat has been reminiscent of Egypt and other countries I have visited. A heat beyond the norm, one that feels physical, a barrier to be broken through, unrelenting and powerful. It’s an alien heat; alien because it doesn’t belong here, where our summers are spectacular and hot if the thermometer touches 25.

I am reminded of early starts; starts when the temperature was already climbing above 25, clambering over it, dismissing it as an afterthought as it surged higher and higher, when it was only 7.30 in the morning. I am reminded of breakfasts on the terrace overlooking the Nile, starting the day with as much orange juice as a man can consume and sweating it away, skin shiny and slippery with the combination of sweat and lotion.

I am reminded of happy times. Times when I felt I could be me, or at least times when I didn’t have to be the other me, the work me, the masking me.

And perhaps that’s why summer is my favourite season. It’s a reminder of good times, times under a relenting sun, a hot sun that meant I was doing something I loved. Sun meant exotic, strange, inviting. It meant huge pyramids of stone, ancient temples, lush, verdant jungles, and different languages and foods. It meant hotels of all sizes and pools of all sizes and noise and smells, some admittedly a bit pungent, but above all, freedom. A release from the banal and the ordinary.

Yes I dreamed I was in Egypt. Oh, to see her once again…