MUSIC AND THE ART OF WRITING
Yo-Yo Ma is probably today’s greatest cellist. The sounds that this man can conjure up by stroking cats’ guts with a horse’s tail are miraculous! Yo-yo is also a compelling speaker. He talks about discovering the difference between perfection and expression, and the listener experiences both in every stroke of his bow across the strings.
This is the secret that raises art above the level of craft, and it has a direct link with the art of writing as opposed to the craft. To master the craft of writing fiction, you learn the elements of the craft: the grammar, the story structure; points of view, hooks, showing rather than telling – how to craft a sentence: a paragraph: a chapter: a book.
But it is only when you are able to cease striving for perfection and concentrate on expression, that you have mastered the art of writing fiction. Yes, you do need to practice the craft first, as Yo-Yo Ma would confirm, and to continue practicing daily as well, but once those techniques become intuitive, you don’t need to keep them uppermost in your mind as you write. You are an artist. The links between the various arts makes a fascinating study. In particular, as a writer, I find the connection between music and writing especially significant. Music can serve the writer in various practical ways. Here are four of them.
POETRY. Verse has a musical lilt to it, and it has two specific elements in common with music: rhythm and emotion. This works both ways – music inspires the wordsmith to write, and verse inspires the musician to compose. Sullivan’s music is at its most charming in the comic operas he composed to Gilbert’s verses. In the other direction any type of music: pop or classic, can inspire the writer. I wrote a satire on Brexit to the tune of a popular song of 1950 – “Music, music, music”, and an anti-fracking verse set to Mozart’s lullaby.
INSPIRATION. To put it simply, music is a great writing prompt. Recently, I needed to write short story on the theme of winter. I reached for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and found a performance of the “Winter”, which was played at a rollicking speed. It inspired the vision of a steam train speeding through a winter landscape. My story sprang to life.
THEME. Music can be woven as a motif throughout a story. My just-published novella uses the music of the wind in the pine trees as an on-going theme; and I have the cheek to liken the heroine’s feelings as she reaches an orgasm, to the climax of a great concerto.
STORY. Anything from the shortest of flash fiction to a full-blown novel can be created from the words of a song. Or an aria. One of my short stories is based on an aria in Carmen (La fleur que tu m’avais jetée). I could go on giving examples ad nauseam; but I think I’ve made my point.
As a romance writer, I can only say: “If music be the food of love,“… write on. (Sorry, Bill)