The Sound of Music

A lot of us write to music. If you doubt that, just go to the Nanowrimo forums and see how long the thread is for “what’s the soundtrack to your novel” or however that question is phrased this year. It’s long. Hundreds of people excited to share the soundtrack (or sometimes soundtracks, plural) to their novel with like-minded people. Professional authors publish the soundtracks by which they write their novels these days: the wonders of modern technology! Human beings are 80% visual*, but in the absence of direct and external visual stimuli, sometimes we need to kick in some audio in that other 20%. Thus, the soundtrack. Or fanmix, or playlist, or what have you. Even professional works have fanmixes, playlists. For example, the Nutcracker suite composed by Tchaikovsky came almost a century after the Nutcracker story was first penned by ETA Hoffman, was inspired by and based around that story.

Some writers can’t write to anything that has lyrics. Some have to have lyrics to set the mood of the piece or the tone of the character. Some writers prefer composers and classical music, some prefer anything grand and instrumental, some just put on a radio and go. As with everything else about writing, it’s highly individual. I used to be one of those who couldn’t write to lyrics. Truth be told, a lot of the time I still can’t. I get distracted singing along, or trying to listen harder, or both. That said, almost all of my soundtracks for both Black Ice and Sandborn came from fragments of tunes I’d hear in television shows and then, liking the music, I’d go seek out the song title, album, and band. I highly recommend doing that, by the way. Not just the radio, any time you hear a piece of music you like the sound of, write down any details that catch your ear that you can think of. Then see if you can find out what it is on the internet. We’ve got a marvelous tool at our fingertips, might as well make use of it.

Black Ice is urban fantasy, our modern world smashed together in an industrial strength blender with fantasy elements. There are no vampires, nor yet werewolves, but there is magic and there are (sort of) faeries, and there are creatures for which humans don’t have names yet. The brownies now run a protection racket, and there are outlaws who, rumor says, have made bargains with demons for supernatural powers. So for this soundtrack I did want lyrics, everything with lyrics, and a wistful damnation theme, how the world has turned and decayed, and how the characters within have reacted to it.

  1. If I Had A Heart – Fever Ray
  2. No Milk Today – Joshua James & The Forest Rangers cover
  3. Beat The Devil’s Tattoo – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
  4. Seven Stories Underground – The Gutter Twins
  5. Seven Devils – Florence + The Machine
  6. The Death & Resurrection Show – Killing Joke
  7. Don’t Fear The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
  8. Digging Deep – Jakalope
  9. Into the Dark – Melissa Ethridge
  10. You Are – Hungry Lucy
  11. Cry Little Sister – Carfax Abbey cover
  12. Golgotha Tenement Blues – Machines of Loving Grace

Sandborn is different. It’s not a true fantasy world in the sense that technology is stuck somewhere between Dungeons and Dragons and Middle Earth, but the world has definitely moved on. Call it, just prior to the industrial revolution. There is magic in the world, but it’s shrouded in tawdry disguises or hidden, not because of persecution but because no one believes it anymore even when it’s staring them in the face. Hope is for children, and everyone seems to be trying to scratch out another day and postpone the increasingly inevitable withering of humanity. For this I kept some songs with lyrics, but also blended it with movie and television scores. Different characters have their own selections within the playlist, too, even though at some point I’m sure I’ll end up with entire playlists for individual characters.

  1. Lucky to have Jonesy – Sofie’s Theme – Jeff Beal
  2. Mark Antony and Atia – Jeff Beal
  3. Angry Johnny – Poe
  4. The Carnivale Convoy – Jeff Beal
  5. Lucrezia Donati – Bear McCreary
  6. Pageant – Cirque Du Soleil
  7. Iguazu – Gustavo Santaolalla
  8. Balloon Girl – Hungry Lucy
  9. Dry and Dusty – Fever Ray
  10. Birth of a Legend – Graeme Revell