Music plays a significant role in my writing life. I usually listen to instrumental tracks to avoid the distraction of lyrics that beg me to sing along. Music sets a tone, a soundscape that informs my writing and blocks out the myriad household noises begging for attention. My preferred genres tend toward the dark and moody, not surprising to anyone who knows me, and I have found a wealth of resources through online streaming sites such as Pandora and Mixcloud. The latter is where I discovered one of my favorite sources for a writing soundtrack, Black Yo)))ga Music, a wealth of dark, industrial gothic tracks created to accompany the yoga practice for those averse to chirping birds, waterfalls, and sitars. It also opened up my personal music catalog to hundreds of artists previously unknown to me, and I use it in my own yoga practice.
While writing The Orbiter, the music I listened to played a more direct role than usual. Rather than simply a background writing soundtrack, I also used two specific songs as inspirations for certain scenes and landscapes. Whenever I needed to conjure up specific emotions for a scene, I would first listen to these songs, and then begin writing.
Anyone who knows me is well aware (perhaps painfully aware) that I am a massive fan of the band Nine Inch Nails and the creative genius behind it, Trent Reznor. I often listen to the Ghosts I-IV instrumental albums while writing. Reznor is a wizard at creating mood and setting scenes with sound using deconstructed, sometimes destroyed instruments, and layering tracks that reveal new sounds with each vignette.
The Great Below
The first, most important song--and the one I listened to most often--while writing scenes for the The Orbiter was The Great Below from the NIN's 1999 album The Fragile. The first line is a perfect summation of Ethan, his affinity for the ocean and his uncertain future with Carrie:
Staring at the sea
In fact, the lyrics describe the pivotal scene in which Ethan throws himself into the sea. The foreboding first notes as he approaches the edge in the storm, the torment and regret that drive him off the edge, and once he's in the water, the letting go, the resignation to his fate.
I'm not sure if I imagined the scene and then discovered the companion song, or if the idea of the song gave birth to the scene. Either way, it's a perfect marriage of music, lyric, and scene. Give it a listen:
Beside You In Time
The second inspiring song I listened to often while writing The Orbiter, was Beside You In Time from NIN's 2005 album With Teeth. In some aspects, the song was a more subtle influence. The binaural beats and surreal soundscape capture the trance-like state Ethan enters when The Pull is at its strongest or when his memories flood his mind in a painful deluge.
While I've read that the lyrics are about the "old self" giving way to the "new self" during times of great personal growth, and how we remain aware of both versions of ourselves, which can be applied to Ethan's fugue state in Part II of the book, I also applied the words to the relationship between Ethan and Carrie.
I am all alone this time around
Ethan feels tormented by his attachment to Carrie, yet unwilling or unable to give it up. Sometimes he waits patiently for her to notice him, sometimes he becomes impatient and takes action. He's always beside her, in her orbit, though she may not see him. He knows their connection will never die. The intangible force that holds them together--The Pull--will remain for all of time.
Close your eyes and listen. The beats are trippy and it builds to an epic ending.
Because I love Nine Inch Nails, I was glad to discover the various soundtracks that Trent Reznor composed with his musical partner Atticus Ross. The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Girl are in regular rotation. Movie soundtracks provide a cinematic aesthetic to my writing, as I imagine my story in a theatrical way while writing it.
I rarely, if ever, write in silence and the music I listen to bleeds into my words sometimes intentionally, but more often, subconsciously. Just know that Nine Inch Nails is an influence in all of my books!
I write novels and poetry and this blog.