I have something a bit different for you today; the lovely Christopher Husberg has written me a really interesting guest post to share with you. This is in honour of the release of his latest book, the fourth instalment in the Chaos Queen Series. I will be doing a full reread of the series very soon, so watch out for my reading diary for that. Now I hope you enjoy.
Alright, so I’m going to spoil the premise of this post just to save us all some time: I write with music. I find it helpful and enjoyable. I’m a writer, I also like music, and for me combining the two really works.
That said, it doesn’t work for everyone. My guess is, if you’re a writer, you’ve tried writing with music, and you’ve already decided whether it’s helpful for you or not. If you haven’t, you know, give it a try. I tried several versions of musical accompaniment to my writing process, and have found some options that help me out quite a bit (and, for the record, there are some options that really don’t work for me, as well).
If writing with music doesn’t work for you, power to you. But you probably don’t have to read the rest of this post, because, well, it’s about writing with music. Peace, friends.
If writing with music does work for you, or if you’re not sure, then read on! I’ll tell you about some of my favorite music options and why they’re awesome.
Audiomachine creates my immediate go-to writing music. According to an older version of their website (which I can no longer find), they once described themselves as “a boutique, motion picture advertising music collective, specializing in original epic music and bone crunching sound design for theatrical trailers, television commercials and video game advertising campaigns.” That description is still pretty accurate, imo. You’ve likely heard Audiomachine but just haven’t realized it – their music has been featured on recent trailers for movies like Rogue One, The Martian, and Avengers: Endgame.
What I love about Audiomachine is they give me the sweeping, dynamic sound of an epic film soundtrack, but without the potentially distracting context. (I love movie soundtracks, but listening to them while writing often gets me more in the mood to watch the movie than to write, if that makes sense.) Audiomachine is a happy medium, and they have an immense catalog of music so I never get tired of the same tracks. And, while I’d categorize all of their music as “epic,” and most of their stuff seems to work best for me when writing fantasy, many of their albums have more of a sci-fi twist, while a couple others lean toward horror or even a steampunk vibe. If you’re interested in trying them out for your own writing soundtrack, you can’t really go wrong with any of their albums, but I’d personally recommend checking out Chronicles, Phenomena, or Magnus: B-Sides first if you’re asking.
If you remotely consider yourself one who appreciates music at all, and haven’t heard of the Icelandic band Sigur Rós, do yourself a favor and check them out immediately. They’re one of my all-time favorite bands, and if I could choose one word to describe their music it might be immersive. SR creates the type of music in which you need to fully immerse yourself in to appreciate–listen to it in the dark with a good pair of headphones. I like listening to them when I’m brainstorming and worldbuilding, or for specific scenes that require something a bit more stirring than the typical Audiomachine track. Their transcendent album Ágaetis byrjun is a must-listen, but I’m particularly fond of Takk… and Valtari as well.
Max Richter first came to my attention when I discovered he wrote the haunting track “On the Nature of Daylight” featured on the 2016 film Arrival. His album Sleep is perhaps his most interesting: a concept album focused on the neuroscience behind the act of sleeping, it comes in at a whopping 8.5 hours long. Sleep is subtle and atmospheric, and perfect for background music while writing. I’d recommend his other work as well, starting with The Blue Notebooks.
Giles Lamb is perhaps best known for writing the track that accompanies one of the greatest video game trailers ever made (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ialZcLaI17Y), but I’ve found a lot of his other work to be great writing music as well. Before the Birds, Glossolalia, and Pure Frame are some of my favorite albums.
Vienna Teng stands out on this list as one of the few artists whose music is accompanied by English lyrics. I’ve found that when I’m writing epic fantasy, tracks with English lyrics more often than not distract me and pull me out of the writing process, and generally are not helpful at all. However, when I’m writing more contemporary stuff (particularly with more contemporary dialog), I actually don’t mind English lyrics at all. That’s just how it works for me, and it’s been a process of trial and error.
So I’m including Vienna Teng here because (a) her music is awesome, and (b) her track “The Hymn of Acxiom” has basically become the theme song of my latest project (which involved AI – you’ll see the connection if you listen to the lyrics of the song). So, yeah, check out Vienna Teng!
For me, music has become another tool in my writing toolbox. I can use it to enhance my process, or put it away when it ceases to become useful. And, for the record, there are times I don’t mind silence while writing, either!
Hopefully my suggestions have been helpful to you, and I wish you the best in your own writing journeys!