Friday, March 5, 2010

Bang the Drum

At work, I listen to a Martha’s Vineyard radio station. I spent childhood summers vacationing on Nantucket and WMVY takes me back to drippy ice-cream cones from the Juice Bar and shoes filled with sand from Surfside beach.

If I forget to start the feed when I first sit down, I eventually notice an eerie silence. It’s the kind of quiet that sound editors include just before something scary is about to happen in a movie. I immediately stop what I’m doing and start the music, letting out an audible exhale when Jay Farrar, in the middle of a song, starts drifting from the speakers.

At home, I can’t have music playing when I’m writing. My brain can’t tune it out. I get distracted by the lyrics and find myself fighting the urge to sing along. Instead, music is an escape from the creative process.

The other day, sitting at my dining table with papers strewn everywhere and a blank page on my monitor, I loaded iTunes and started one of my playlists. I was stuck, struggling, and was hopeful I’d find inspiration from Jamie Cullum or Jonatha Brooke. Maybe David Gray’s Kathleen or The Heavy’s How You Like Me Now would help me figure out a character.

When Citizen Cope’s song Sideways started, I fell back into my chair. I closed my eyes and slowly swayed to the sultry rhythm of the song. When it finished, I played it again. The gentle slope of the music, starting soft and building to a stronger version of the same refrain, carried me along. I could feel the music in my belly, sense it in my bones.

After listening to Sideways four times in a row, I closed iTunes and started writing. Slowly things came together, started making sense. I remained at my desk until a little after midnight. Total page count? Six. Total needed? More than six. Except I no longer felt overwhelmed. I saved the file and then re-opened iTunes and played Sideways one more time. This time I sang along.

What songs inspire you?

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