Music is a source of creative inspiration for me. When I taught elementary music, I occasionally passed out drawing paper and crayons and had the students draw a scene suggested by music I played for them.
Some authors make WIP-specific playlists that put them in the zone as they work on their projects. They even create special genre playlists, such as for mystery, suspense, romance, sci fi, or fantasy; or mood playlists such as happy, sad, angry, etc.
The other day I tried an experiment. I turned my iTunes on shuffle and hit play, then wrote down the scene I saw in my head as I listened. Here’s what I came up with (you can click on the music titles to go to a YouTube version):
- J.S. Bach, French Suite No.2 in C minor: Sarabande. Played on harpsichord. I imagined Marie Antoinette with her powered up-do swishing around her palace in one of her low-cut, full-skirted gowns.
- Peter Davison, Invoking the Warrior from Adagio: Music for Tai Chi. An instructor at a gym I used to attend had the best workout music. I fell in love with this piece and asked her what it was so I could buy it. While listening, I imagined a scene from The Last Samuri when Tom Cruise watched the warriors practice and then joined in and got the tar beat out of him.
- Muzio Clementi, Sonatina No. 3 in F Major, Op. 38, 1st movement, on piano. I imagined a piano teacher working with a talented young student, demonstrating trills and turns. The student struggles with them, keeps repeating them, and gradually is able to play them smoothly and up to tempo, to the delight of his teacher.
- Astor Piazzolla, Libertango. I imagined a scene where the camera alternates between showing the musicians who have a deep rapport really digging into the music, allowing each other to improvise solos, and then showing the dancers who are flirting with one another as they sensuously explore the nuances of the tango.
- Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I imagined a young man walking along a shore while winds blew and dark clouds gathered and lightning flashed and finally rain came down in sheets. The man struggled to keep upright against the wind, and finally turned away from the sea and looked for shelter.
- Felix Mendelssohn, A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Overture. Though this doesn’t relate to midsummer at all, I imagined a couple in a horse-drawn as snow came down. They sped silently through woods and fields with a sense of urgency.
- Simon and Garfunkel, The Sun Is Burning. This doesn’t match the words, but based on the guitar line and the soft voices, I see a little boy digging in a sandbox on a beautiful sunny day.
- Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 4, 3rd movement, rondo. Part of the music sounds martial in nature, and I imagined soldiers marching in a parade. But I didn’t know what to do with my soldiers when the music sounded less military. Making they could just take a break for a minute until the rhythm returns. . .
Any of these little snippets could be the germ of a short story or a novel. Now, someone else listening to this music could envision something entirely different than what I saw, and, of course, that’s wonderful. Inspiration is magic.
Now it’s your turn. Choose any of these pieces of music (or even something not on this list) and describe the scene that plays forth in your imagination. Share with us in the comments below.
This guest post was contributed by ARHuelsenbeck. Former elementary general music teacher ARHuelsenbeck blogs about the arts and the creative process at ARHtistic License. She is currently writing a YA mystical fantasy and a Bible study guide, and submitting a poetry chapbook, with mystery and MG drafts waiting in the wings. You can follow her on Twitter, and see some of her artwork, photography, and quilts on Instagram.