|follower of Hieronymus Bosch, "Concert in the egg."|
Wikipedia Commons, from Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille
A: Perhaps I am a bit strange in this regard. I'm always seeing online playlists for writers--what they listened to while writing such-and-such a novel. But I have a great capacity for blotting out background noise (very useful when one has been raising three children, though one needs to have internal radar set for the "wrong" sort of noise, and also possess the ability to move back and forth between children and the depths of a manuscript) and so I never trouble myself with playing music. In fact, it seems strange to me to think of doing so.
What would I do it for? To me, it seems like the attempt to find a distraction when I neither need or want distraction, and I would tune it out anyway. But what do other people who don't blot sounds out want it for? Is it that one doesn't quite like writing and wants to be distracted to some degree? I'm always bemused by the many writers who claim to dislike writing and to love having written. (I don't think I would write if I felt that way. Should one admire people who write despite that feeling, or be troubled that they force themselves to do what they don't like?) Two of my children like music when they do homework... So is it to be amused? Is it to set a mood? Is it to let words ride on sound that "fits" the subject? To be "inspired"? Aside from the fact that I would block out the music anyway, I don't need mood or inspiration to be created by something outside myself. There's something I am missing, it seems. Writers are alike in some ways, different in others. I suppose this is a way I am different. (But I never think the particulars of how people write are significant.)
That said, I do sometimes find myself writing a poem after listening to music. Because music is an awakening force... and in me, it tends to wake up words.
What other part does music have in my life, then?
Some time ago I was shanghaied into the soprano section of a choir at the little Episcopal church that James Fenimore Cooper turned into a Gothic bandbox on his return from Europe. I have two or three practices per week and sing in public at least once a week. So I probably sing more than most people my age. The choir sings Haydn, Humperdinck (the real one), Bach, etc. I'm continually surprised to find myself in a choir (me?) and singing in public, and I have threatened to write a comic novel called Choir. In the time I've been singing, we've had quite a few people in the arts in the choir--painters Deborah Guertze, Yolanda Sharpe (a wonderful mezzo-soprano), and Ashley Norwood Cooper.
As for my life at home and on the road, I hear a good deal of music but not in any systematic way. The last CDs I bought for my fall book travels were Mike Scott and the Waterboys, An Appointment with Mr. Yeats, and also an anthology of songs made from Yeats poems. Obviously that's because I have a Yeats mania. (I sometimes pick up other intersections between books and music, like the Tiger Lilies version of Edward Gorey--or, for that matter, as when composer-videographer Paul Digby sets one of my poems. See five videos of poems at youtube.) I don't bother with being "up to date," but my daughter makes me CDs of her favorite new music for book trips, and I listen to a lot of classical music--medieval and Renaissance music, along with Mozart, Britten, Taverner, etc.