Best-Selling and Award-Winning Author of Historical Fiction with Mystery/ Suspense, Paranormal and/or Romantic Elements, and Historical Gothic Young Adult Fiction.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Music...The Soundtrack of our Lives

Like many people, music has always been a large part of my life. In fact, I believe that most people feel the same way. All of us have a personal soundtrack to our lives. Songs by recording artists and groups that were somehow always playing in the background. Songs we sang as children on the playground. Music we listened to as we did our homework. The hymns we sang in church. The Christmas carols we sang from childhood to adulthood as we decorated an evergreen tree. Standing at a baseball game, hand over your heart, as your join in with others singing The National Anthem. The first time you heard a symphony orchestra, or the overture for a Broadway musical. The haunting notes from a lone piper playing Amazing Grace at the funeral of a loved one. From the cradle to the grave, music has been a constant presence in most of our lives, a loyal friend that can make us tap our toes and sing along, or comfort and help ease our pain.

I know that when I hear a certain piece of music I am transported back in time to a moment in my life and I am reminded of the often overlooked impact that music made in my life. Most recently, upon learning about the death of singer Andy Williams on September 25, 2012, a rush of memories came forth. Memories from my childhood, so often tucked away in the busy pace of the present. Memories of my darling mother, and of being home with her and my siblings. Of happy times when life was far less complicated and we just didn't realize we would not be together forever.
I was so sad to hear that Andy Williams had died. At the same time, that golden door in my memory opened as I reflected on his music and how it played such a signifiant part during some of the happiest times of my life. And so I have been reminiscing a great deal these past few days, listening again to all his songs. And you know what? They still made me so very happy.

The truth is, I cannot recall a time when music has not surrounded me. It just always seems to be near. I love it! Pure and simple. I'm the person in the theatre who pays as much attention to the soundtrack of a film as the film itself. Let's face it, take away Darth Vadar's theme when he appears on screen or just walks, and it would not have the same impact.

As a writer, I always listen to music when I write and it plays an important role in the creativity of my work. Since I write historical fiction, the music I choose is usually from that time period. However, I also listen to soundtracks from films that also took place in the same time period.

For example, right now I am working on a Historical Paranormal Thriller series that takes place in the early 19th century (or Regency period). So, the soundtracks from the 1995 film, Sense and Sensibility (Original Music by Patrick Doyle) and the 2005 verion of Pride & Prejudice (Original Music by Dario Marianelli) have both helped to immerse my thoughts into the time period I am writing about.

At the same time, since Between the Shadows (Book One of the series) is also a very suspenseful thriller, I needed much darker music that would help me visualize and create some very frightening moments for the characters.
A few of the movie soundtracks I have purchased that have helped tremendously are: The Others (Original Music by Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar); The Woman In Black (Original Music by Marco Beltrami), and the 2011 Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part II (Original Music by Alexandre Desplat).

I find it helpful to create a specific playlist for each book I am writing on, based on the elements and mood I want to evoke. Then, as I sit and write alone in my writing loft (aka three flights up in the attic), I light a scented candle, listen to my playlist, and close my eyes for a moment. Sometimes I look out the leaded glass gothic window, but seeing with my mind's eye the setting of my book.

I'm not the fastest writer. I tend to focus a great deal on plotting and research, and unless I am completely happy with each scene as I write it, I cannot move onto the next chapter. It can be a nuistance at times, but I'm just not one of those writers who can rush through with a draft and then go back and re-write or change things. That may work for some, but not for me. I write in a straight trajectory, from Point A to Point B. I will take some compelling twists and turns in the plot of my book, but from a writing standpoint, I am the proverbial turtle who MUST maintain his own pace in the race with the famous hare. Still, eventually, I will accomplish the same goal...a completed novel...and hopefully readers will love it.

In closing, and in keeping with the theme that music does make up a soundtrack for our lives and can transport us back in time when we least expect it, today I purchased an album of the original music from the Dark Shadows TV series. Cool, eh? There are some great pieces, "A Darkness at Collinwood", "The Secret Room", "Seance", and "The Old House". If you ever watched the original series on TV or in reruns, you will recognize the background music. However, I wasn't prepared for Barnabas himself (Jonathan Frid) to start talking whilst haunting music plays in the background on a piece called, "I, Barnabas". Suddenly, I was that little kid hiding behind the sofa as my mom (unaware of my presence) watched the show. Anyway, here is the opening lines of the script read by Jonathan Frid as Barnabas:

"Midnight, a hush falls through the melancholy halls of Collinwood. The solemn moon casts dark shadows over the placid stillness of the old mansion. I, Barnabas, lie in deep sleep on my bed of purple velvet, asleep but awake to your thoughts, your feelings, your desires..."

Um...very spooky, Barnabas. I feel like Halloween just arrived in broad daylight.

Have a great day everyone, and remember to listen to the music of life! ~ AKB


Caroline Clemmons said...

Ashley, I am so grateful to you for telling me about Pandora. I pay for my subscription so I don't have to keep clicking on "I'm still listening." I love being able to select according to my mood. I always listen to classical when I'm writing, but have other favorites when I'm doing email or blogging. Glad you're posting on your blog again.

Ashley Kath-Bilsky said...

Thanks, Carolyn. Yep, Pandora.com is great! There is also Slacker.com and I have heard good things about them, too. Happy Writing, my friend. ;)

Geri said...

Well done, Ashley. I rarely listen to music when I write. When I do, I have the tendency to want to get up and dance. But I love all those sound tracks you mentioned/


Angelyn said...

I love your blog, Ashley--the pictures are so lush and evocative.

So is Barnabas (the original one by Jonathan Frid)--that scene where he enters Victoria's room and seduces her gets me every time!!

Ashley Kath-Bilsky said...

Thanks, Geri. I know what you mean. I cannot listen to music with lyrics or I would be singing along not writing. :)

Ashley Kath-Bilsky said...

Hi Angelyn - Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I was really hoping the Dark Shadows movie with Johnny Depp would be a tribute to the original series, and Jonathan Frid as Barnabas. They certainly had a great cast with Michelle Pfeiffer, and Helena Bonham Carter. But I was very disappointed with Depp's portrayal of Barnabas, and the farce they made of the movie. I think many fans of the original series felt the same way.