Monday, 1 August 2011

If Music be the Food of... Writing? (originally posted at Rhemalda in April 2011)

Music is terribly important to me; its strainsrun right through my life. From the nursery songs I learned as a toddler to the silly songs I used to sing in the back of the car on long journeys; tuneless ditties which no doubt irritated my parents no end! Music helped me to learn, from singing the Alphabet song to using rhythm to make my math times tables stick in my head. (There it failed – we’ll gloss over that!)
Later, as a teen, music often helped me cope with teenage angst. Belting out modern pop songs in the security of one’s bedroom– pop songs hated by one’s parents of course – was a mild form of rebellion, one they could do nothing about. Not that I really wanted to rebel against my parents, but adopting some form of individualism was required at age thirteen.
Then came serious singing, with school and church choirs. That was quickly joined by a passion for folk music when, through eavesdropping on what my older brother and his friends were playing in his bedroom, I discovered bands and singers such as Fairport Convention, Pete Seeger, and Joan Baez. I was hooked.
Folk music became the theme to my life and I honed my vocal chords by emulating Sandy Denny – long live the memory of her haunting voice. Recently I sang some songs during our village variety show and afterwards, one member of the audience made my day when she said my singing reminded her of Sandy. I couldn’t wish for a better epitaph – “Her singing sounded just like Sandy Denny’s.” Very soon now, you may get to compare for yourselves and I hope you will be kind!
Music also played a vital part in my writing. I find it essential to immerse myself in the world I’m creating as I write, and because Albia and Andaryon are in effect medieval worlds, listening to music from that era helped drown out the seriously un-medieval Chinook helicopters that regularly blat-blat their way across our rooftops.
It wasn’t medieval music, however, that had the greatest effect on me when writing my Artesans series. On a trip to the US in 2003 or 2004, we had the great opportunity to tour some of the National Parks. The Grand Canyon was also on the list and here, in one of the visitor centres, I picked up a cd of music inspired by the Canyon itself. It was called ‘Spirit of the Canyon’ and was by Ah*Nee*Mah (Diane Arkenstone, Seth Osburn, Delia Park, John Wakefield and David Arkenstone). As soon as the first track (Light from the East) began to play, I knew I would love it forever. There is a strong Native American influence to these tracks and my created world has no connection whatsoever to Native American culture or peoples. Yet that hauntingly beautiful track captures intimately the spirit of Major Sullyan, one of my main characters. I can see the magnificent horse the Major rides, Drum, galloping powerfully across the Albian hills. I can see and hear battles raging. I can see the Major’s Artesan powers, and watch the sun rise over the Manor. It has a very special place in my heart, that track, and I just had to credit its creators in the front pages of King’s Envoy. I wonder what they’d make of the book?

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