When I was a little girl my mother listened to the radio every morning as she did her chores, and she would often sing along with her favorite music. I listened as I worked with her or played where I could hear the radio. Programs were about 15 minutes in those days, with few commercial interruptions. One program of popular song and light patter involved several singers and lots of laughter. I remember one inconsequential little ditty, a tribute to the joy of camaraderie:
In the cool, cool, cool of the evening,
Tell 'em I'll be there.
In the cool. cool, cool of the evening,
Better save a chair.
When the party's gettin' a glow on
And singin' fills the air,
In the shank of the night,
When the doin's are right,
You can tell 'em I'll be there.
Of course, in my child mind, it never occurred to me that a party getting a "glow on" might refer to the consumption of alcohol, with which I was unacquainted. Nevertheless, it was a catchy tune and I've remembered it all these years.
Mother also listened to a program of inspirational music every morning, and then later in the day there was Arthur Godfrey from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I knew where all these programs were on the dial and could run to the console radio and change the station when one program ended. In the evenings we listened to Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Nat "King" Cole. On Saturday mornings the sounds of the Metropolitan Opera broadcast from New York wafted through the house, and in the evenings we heard a program of island music, "Hawaii Calls," complete with steel guitars and ukuleles, followed by the authentic Western sounds of Gene Autry's "Melody Ranch" and the sweet harmonies of the Sons of the Pioneers.
To say that my musical influences were eclectic is to understate the situation, especially when you add to this the fact that I grew up in the 60's with Pat Boone, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and folk music at hootenannies. I listened faithfully to the Top Twenty countdown on Saturday nights to see if my favorites were there. (FYI, Elvis never appealed to me and I didn't see the charm of the Beetles--too shallow, not enough substance, like 99% of the rest of popular music.) Later I discovered jazz--nothing like the Modern Jazz Quartet--and then in college the world of classical music opened up and filled my soul and spoke to my spirit. All that explains why my present music collection is still rather diverse, including Bach played on the marimba, British folk tunes played by a harp and harmonica, and masses from Spain, Africa and South America.
Fast forward to my life as a writer of fiction--a computer with iTunes on the desk in front of me, with the potential for playing uninterrupted music of my choice for three or four days straight. Early on I discovered that if I chose a piece of music representing characters in my book and played it while I was writing, my brain was sharper, my vocabulary quicker, my ideas more forthcoming. With the music the words began to flow, and writing a 300-page manuscript was practically effortless. I can't listen to anything with words because they're telling a different story than the one I'm engaged in portraying and that's too confusing, unless it's a language I don't know--think Daphnis and Chloe, Rachmaninov's Vespers, or Carmina Burana.
Now I'm working on a trilogy of stories based on the Book of Mormon, and I'm struggling with ideas and sometimes the flow of words that I've been accustomed to is more like a puny drip. It's like swimming through old honey. But why? I didn't understand. And then it occurred to me that I haven't assigned a piece of music to these books yet, something that will stimulate the synapses and make it cascade rather than trickle. So what am I waiting for? Excuse me while I go find a CD that fits. I think I'm going to start with the Mahler First Symphony, one of my favorites, and see where that takes me.
Any suggestions? What music inspires you?