Monday, April 5, 2010

Music and the Creative Process

On an evening drive through town, I tuned in to our local jazz station to clear my mind of all the dialogue and scene revisions I’d worked on for the past week. My husband asked why jazz, to which my first response was, “I don’t know. I just like it.” Knowing that was not the kind of surface-level answer he wanted to hear, I dug deeper.

What is it about jazz that helps me unwind? I thought about all the playlists I had created for different scenes in my book. It ranged from rock to classical, but I didn’t have any jazz from my collection assigned to any part of my story. I also wondered why I had chosen certain songs over others.

Eventually I made the connection. I started out as a dance major in college and have used all kinds of music for choreography, except jazz. For me, music helps bring form and shape to contemporary movements in writing and dance. A haunting piano medley or a raging rock song can inspire tone and mood.

My mind works on story telling as it did on choreography, carrying the audience or reader on a journey through beginning, middle and end, often flowing in theme and purpose much like a song. So, why didn’t I have jazz in my playlist when I love it so? It was a combination of voice and feel.

When I listen to other genres of music, I find myself creating whether its dance or writing. But with jazz, I’m sort of awestruck. To me, the music dances all by itself. Instead of imagining how I can put something together to follow the flow of the music, jazz swirls me around in its current as I drift downstream in its blue waters.

Since music is a useful tool in the creative process, I’d like to know your thoughts. What music inspires you to be creative? And, why?


  1. I can't listen to music while I'm doing serious writing. Any other time, I love to listen to Christian music. :-)

  2. The musician in me causes me to be distracted, in a good way, by the music. It's that whole OCD thing where I break down the music, the patterns, the complexity of the strains weaving in and out. However, I can look at a photograph and music will come to mind. Music is the base for me. I can write poetry and a melody will rise out of the mist or I will create a tune to compliment the poem. To me, everything artistic inspires music - not the other way around.

  3. Oh, I love music and it's often a song will inspire a new scene or a certain mood in my novel. It is surprising to me I don't write with music on, but as one who is easily distracted it is probably best that way.

    ~ Wendy

  4. Shannon, I love Christian music too. Especially praise and worship. It's very inspiring and can lift you out of a bad day.

    Mom, isn't it funny how we're both OCD. Wonder where I picked that up? I love how the musician in you hears music in everything around you.

    Wendy & Shannon, I was the same way with music causing distraction until I moved into a neighborhood where they are building houses all around me. Now music is what I use to drown out the nail guns and sawing noises.