Writing to Music

I’ve been writing for hours at a time again and it can be difficult, some days, to turn my mind and focus on an imaginary world when there are so many things to keep me in the everyday world.  Having a piece of music playing can help.  By filling up my ears, it over-rides part of my consciousness – the ‘internal editor’ that is constantly correcting and improving before I’ve even drafted.  But getting the right album or long track is tricky.

Good writing music is melodic.  Some classical music does this, but film or game soundtrack is more reliable – the themes that repeat and develop are much easier to grasp.  Soundtracks are also explicitly written to create atmosphere, which is the other big reason for writing to music alongside focus.

When I’m writing cyberpunk – or gastropunk – I rely on Vangelis – either the extended Blade Runner soundtrack or his album The City.  Melody a-plenty, but I don’t get too distracted from what I’m writing because I know the pieces so well.

I’ve been focusing on Steam Highwayman II for the last week and so Blade Runner doesn’t match at all.  Following a few comments by Jonathan Green, who also writes to music, I discovered the soundtrack to Skyrim.  I only know the game through watching a few playthrough videos and (mercifully for my schedule) have never had a computer that could run a large CRPG, but I was really impressed both with the composition by Jeremy Soule and the simple arrangement into a long track by TheSagaris2.  This is perfect writing music – no jarring transitions, plenty of atmosphere, loads of melody, easy to get to know.

The sound might feel pretty open and natural, so it doesn’t fit the world of Steam Highwayman too well, but it certainly suits the writing of it.  I mean to post soon about my search for a ‘Steam Highwayman sound’ and what sort of music sounds steampunk to me.  Let me know if you’d be interested in reading that – or listening to a curated list.

Graham Writes About Worship – Renewal 2015

I’ve been profiting from reading and dwelling on Graham Kendrick’s stacked-up blog posts.  There’s some quality discussion of leadership as a worship leader and writer of songs on his site, as well as some great stories behind some of his songs.  I find it so encouraging to read how directly the spirit moved him on many occasions to create a song we now take a bit for granted!  Click the pic.


In other news, I’m going to the Renewal Conference in Woolwich next weekend.  I know GK and other British worship leaders tend to be there.  If you haven’t heard of it, click the pic and check it out.


Mozart, Christe Eleison

Christe eleison bright rises in my ear,

The melody I learnt long since resounds again, so near.

To watch one gifted retch and pale

And see his talents fail,

What response, but a quiet and sincere

Christe eleison.

My friends I choose to address quite clear:

Your gift is great, although few hear

The music written when you nightly wail

Christe eleison.


Every maker takes his chance to disappear,

Lose himself in his creation, let the seen be seer,

If that’s the way to weave a tale

Or hang a phrase upon harmony’s nail

Then what is any art, but a mere

Christe eleison.

Incoming Tide

Every pattern that’s made by the water

Where tides sculpt the ripples of low-slung sand levels

Is hidden, invisible, but for its traces,

The skeleton ridges and quartz-dancing revels.


Across the cold strand the sea is like silver,

Its lobes licking tenderly flattened out swells.

The sand barely rises, except when the water

Displays a true level and every tongue tells.


But even those waters are ebbing and rushing

And never the beach or the sea’s edge is smooth,

But climbing, high-rising, then falling, revealing,

It softens the crystals just like lullabies soothe.

Seeking Beauty

I used to think you had to understand,

To know your place in history’s line,

Your form, your pace, your isocline,

And hold your past and future in one hand,


The hand that holds the pen.  No more.

The pattern of art’s providence

Is far more complex, fractal, tense,

Than any art can frame or store,


And when I’ve walked through quiet pines

I’ve heard the boughs that yawned and swayed

That beauty isn’t something made

But something found between straight lines.


Hear Mozart tumble with his tune –

He knows how long to tease and tweak,

But try and numerate that feat –

Retire, and learn to play bassoon.


I wrote three thousand words today

In just two hours, to do what’s due,

Delineate some skill’s debut

And teach a child to make work play.


But that was not enough, I missed

The target I had had me aim

And have drawn out this writing game

To be the whole week’s stretching list.


What better?  Suffer?  Write and sob

Or inject laughter, distract noise

Forget my children, leave the boys

The girls, the classroom, drop the job?


I am one man – I have one heart –

And when I test it, stretch it out,

The pain is like a desert’s drought,

The muscle rested pulls apart.


Then only through life’s constant work

Can I find rest from doubt or debt.

There’s no relaxing here, not yet,

So I’ll pick up the pen I shirk.