Life Needs a Soundtrack (and so do my stories)

The Internet loves “Top 10 Lists,” and depending on the topic, so do I. Given this state of affairs, I thought I would make some of my own and share them here from time to time. Thus, without further ado, I give you…

Christopher’s Top 10 Songs to Write To!
(At Least Right Now)

I adore music.

I listen to loads of it everyday, create tons of playlists, and curate them weekly (if not daily). Moreover, I’ve been a percussionist since I was 11—I’ve been a concert snare drummer, a drumline leader, and part of a band for years. While drumming, my nickname is Animal, in case you were curious.

My point is that I always have music on my mind. It’s a vital element of my creative process, and though I can go without if I’m really in flow, music often brings out my best.

With my love of curating music, it was only natural that I would start building tons of playlists full of songs to write to. (Thanks for fueling an addiction, Spotify.) Inevitably, those initial lists lead to more refined versions of songs I really like to write to, and then I finally burn off the chaff to get the songs I really like to write to. Naturally, these change over time; I have yet to meet someone who has had the same favorite song for their entire life. (If you are that person, please comment what song it is and why! I would truly love to know.) For right now, here are my Top 10 Favorite Songs to Write To and, just so you know going in, all 10 songs are instrumental:

(Note: If a Spotify play button isn’t working, try closing your Spotify and then clicking the button again. Seems to fix it! If you don’t have Spotify, I put in Youtube links where possible 🙂 )

  1. Interstellar Space – Artist: Adam Young – Album: Voyager 1
    Yes, this is the Adam Young also known as Owl City. Each month in 2016, Adam put out a soundtrack inspired by a major historical event. Naturally, as the title would suggest, this one commemorates the launch of the Voyager 1 satellite, which is neat in and of itself. That said, as a science fiction writer, I love the way this song makes me think of deep space through synthesizers, soaring melodies, and the ebb and flow of discovery. Consider each lull the gap between systems or cosmic objects, and each burst of strings the horizon of a new world.

  1. To Me – Artist: Jizue – Album: Story

I’ve only recently discovered Jizue, a Japanese quartet whose style ranges from jazz to experimental to post-rock to math-rock to electronica. It took about 8 seconds for me to become enamored with them. Like a good story (What an aptly named album!), the song builds layers into an ever more beautiful whole. My favorite Jizue tracks have a complex piano melody at their core, and “To Me” is no exception. Also, resonant piano bass lines just make me happy.

  1. CSM-LM Docking – Artist: Adam Young – Album: Apollo 11

Adam Young is back! Apollo 11 is actually the first historical soundtrack that he composed, and this track is the first I discovered. While the entire album does a remarkable job at conveying each step of the Apollo 11 mission, this track remains my favorite. A steady, recurring bass line drives forward the importance of the effort while overarching bells, guitar, and strings build the excitement as a technological marvel takes place. I particularly like listening on loop while writing about a character trying to handle some intense task.

  1. Sister – Artist: Jizue – Album: Bookshelf

I swear this list is not just songs by Adam Young and Jizue! They just so happen to be the first four. And also, they are really good, so you have no reason to be upset. Another terrific track from another awesomely named album. A beautiful piano melody frolics through the core of this song with jazz percussion building throughout. When the long crescendo finally peaks, the resulting melodies intertwine into something captivating. If you close your eyes to listen, you can make out the silhouette of two characters that have overcome much and look now upon the future laid out before them. Well, at least that’s what I see.

  1. Believe in the Kingdom – Artist: King Arthur – Album: Believe in the Kingdom

A strong piano riff starts this one off as further layers are added to elevate the composition into something hopeful. You could play this song as Aragorn recognizes Gandalf at the top of the ridge in Helm’s Deep, flanked by Éomer and his men. It’s that cool of a song.

  1. To Take …To Hold – Artist: Yanni – Album: Love Songs (Also 4 or 5 others)

Fun Fact: When I was a wee lad, my mom showed me a video of Yanni performing live at the Acropolis with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. I had never been exposed to music of that type and composition before, and I became obsessed with it. I decided then and there to take up playing an instrument, which led to me becoming a percussionist (Thanks, Charlie Adams!) and teaching myself to play piano as well. Though I hold many Yanni songs in high esteem, this one will always be my favorite. I like to put it on while I work on close emotional scenes between characters, especially in affectionate moments. The soft melody conveys care and love to me, better inspiring me to write such feeling into my creations.

  1. Old Story – Artist: Jizue – Album: Story

Alright, this is the last song by Jizue in this list, I swear. Also from Story (Have I mentioned how great an album this is?), this track has everything. It builds out of two interconnected piano melodies with terrific percussion amplifying the ebb and flow. As the song hits each crescendo, cymbals and toms come to the fore, driving things forward. And then, halfway through, everything drops. Just piano remains. From this point of quiet, the song rebuilds itself, gorgeously, into soaring melodies and harmonies with guitar, percussion, and piano each vital in holding it all aloft. I adore this song, and love writing to it. Especially when I’m drafting scenes of redemption. Finally, starting at around 5:45 there is a small piano run that gives me goosebumps with how perfectly it breaks from and meshes into everything else.

  1. Song for Bob – Artist: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis – Album: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

I listen to a lot of movie soundtracks (Feel free to ask if you ever want suggestions for good ones!), to find songs like this. “Song for Bob” has been in my “Favorite Songs to Write To” lists since I started writing novels. It is mournful, pained, and lovely. As it grows, I feel emotion transitioning from solely defeat or loss into introspection and, eventually, hope. Ironically, I’ve never watched the film this is from, but I almost feel like that’s better. The song isn’t connected to a specific character in my mind, though I assume something unfortunate befell poor Bob, and so I put this on whenever I want to dive into difficult emotional scenes where characters are grappling with themselves. Several of the most intense moments of Conduit were written to this track on repeat.

  1. Captain Edward Smith – Artist: Adam Young – Album: RMS Titanic

And here we have the last Adam Young entry on this list. Named for the captain of the most fateful voyage ever, this track comes before any hardships and, through sound alone, introduces the dignity, experience, and intensity of its titular individual. When the piano comes in after a few seconds, it always soothes me. “Captain Edward Smith” speaks to me of honor, patience, and reserved dignity. I can see someone looking out over the bow of a historic ship, with only clear waters ahead. That sentiment has wound its way into several of my works over time, and I am glad for it. Fair warning, however: unlike the other Adam Young albums mentioned in this list, RMS Titanic gets predictably intense. I would not recommend its entirety for writing or relaxing purposes. Icebergs, you know?

  1. Lotus Land – Artist: Philter – Album: The Legend of Iya (Original Game Score)

I could listen to this song forever. Seriously. While it is not my favorite song of all time, it has been my favorite song for writing over the entirety of Conduit’s drafting. The melodic piano intro that breaks into deep, resonant strings speaks of mystery and exploration. Harmonizing vocals use the voice as an instrument without words; conveying that sensation of the unknown and titillating the senses. More than once have I listened to this 3-minute track on repeat for over an hour while drafting. It seamlessly helps me slide into flow, where I lose myself completely in the world and characters I’m creating. Philter, well done. This song is superb, and if I ever put together a list that represents Conduit, I want this track on it.

So there you go! My Top 10 Favorite Songs To Write To (right now)! As times change, I’ll update this list in new articles, so you can see where I’m going, musically speaking. If you’d like to hear all of these songs and a few others that I particularly enjoy for writing purposes, check out the Power Writing list on my Spotify here:

Definitely leave your thoughts and your favorite songs to write to in the comments here or tweet them to me using @Dreamertide. I want to know what gets you into the flow of writing!

Finally, for more articles about writing, the world, and my take on them, you can head back to this site’s homepage HERE.

Thanks for reading, and good listening to you!

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