I blogged a while ago about how some writers have started publishing playlists: the music they listen to while they’re working on a particular project. You’re unlikely to see me do that, since I prefer to write in silence. Any noise other than the click of the keys or the scratch of the pen just muddies up my head.
What I realised recently, however, is that sometimes (though not always) when I’m at the keyboard there’s music playing in my head. Whenever that happens, nine times out of ten it’s a film score. I suspect it’s not so much that I like soundtrack albums (which I do) but more that this kind of music’s got built-in drama. Big action scene coming up … are those the strains of Lawrence of Arabia I hear? You get the picture.
Anyway, the soundtracks at the top of my current mental playlist are:
Moon (Clint Mansell)
Pulsating, soaring, desperately sad … in short, everything you need to reawaken the urge to watch Sam Rockwell acting the pants off himself again. Or to write something really moody and atmospheric.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (John Williams)
Still one of Williams’s best. Exhilarating action cues, the inspirational Map Room – Dawn and the most whistleable main theme since Bridge On The River Kwai. Every note takes me back to the summer of ’81 when the Bournemouth Gaumont (or was it the ABC?) filled up with desert light and the sound of whipcracks. Exuberant!
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (Ennio Morricone)
If a lot of Morricone’s output from the sixties seems dated, it can only be because he’s master of the iconic sound that’s perfectly in tune with its era. But TGTBATU is the musical equivalent of a lava lamp – a piece of popular culture that’s gone way beyond classic and become simply an essential component of life itself, like oxygen or pizza. This music was in my head recently while I was working on a short story called The Voyage of the Plastic Beagle, and it hasn’t left yet.
(Incidentally, the downside of liking soundtrack albums is that listening to one invariably makes me want to watch the movie again. So that’s another thing keeping me away from the growing pile of films I haven’t watched yet … and indeed the latest work-in-progress.)