MINDY NEWELL: Music To Write By
Every writer has his or her way of settling down to write. Mine is to bring a Diet Pepsi and a pack of Salem cigarettes – yeah, yeah, I know… my bad – to my computer desk. Oh, yeah, and slipping in a CD.
Here’s the dope.
I’m pretty much out of the loop when it comes to music.
On the radio I listen to our local NPR (I love everything about that station); the local CBS sports station (especially during the football season – and during the past two or three weeks, the Peyton Manning-Tim Tebow-Mark Sanchez drama here in New York City has mesmerized me); WRL-1600 AM (the progressive station that took over for Air America here); occasionally WWOR-710 AM (though the station has moved too far to the right for my tastes – at least they got rid of Lou Dobbs!); and CBS’s “oldies” station when I’m commuting. I also play my CD’s, which are eclectic to say the least – the soundtrack to Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s musical episode, Once More With Feeling; a lot of Sinatra; the soundtracks to Yentl and South Pacific; a lot of Beatles; Michael Jackson’s Thriller; The Greatest Hits Of Diana Ross and The Supremes; and a great mix of punk, alternative rock, jazz, and Ethan Hawke singing Your Song from Moulin Rouge (which is amazing) that my daughter made me that she called Rod Stewart Sucks,because she knows I like him. Here’s the problem – I groove to all the songs on that CD, but except for the aforementioned Your Song by Hawke, and Midnight Train To Georgia, I’m hard pressed to tell you the names of the songs and the groups who perform them. I’m not even sure of the name of the song that Etta James performs on the CD – I think it’s I’d Rather Be Lonely (Than Be With Somebody Else), but I’m not sure – and it’s one of my favorites.
My musical tastes when writing are equally weird. I listen to soundtracks.
Right now I have the soundtrack to Ben-Hur playing at full volume. (It was composed by Miklos Rozsa, whom I had to look up on Google to discover that he won three Academy Awards – for Double Indemity, Spellbound, and Ben-Hur – and also composed the music for The Lost Weekend, The Jungle Book, The Thief Of Baghdad, Ivanhoe and Lust For Life, to name just a few others.) I find the music of Ben-Hur inspiring, poignant, thrilling/ It’s romantic in its classical sense, meaning that the pieces are passionate and expressive.
Other orchestral soundtracks that inspire me, take me into the heart of my characters or my theme – and this isn’t the complete list – are:
- The Last Of The Mohicans – which, by the way, was also a favorite of “My Friend Kim”
- Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back
- ET The Extraterrestrial
- The Godfather (I and II)
- The Winds Of War and War And Remembrance
- Angel (the television series).
I also listen to musical soundtracks. I love that the songs are expressions of emotions and perplexities, which is why I write. I especially love Rodgers and Hammerstein. Lerner and Lowe ain’t bad either. And then there’s Sondheim. Some examples:
- South Pacific
- The King and I
- West Side Story
- Moulin Rouge
- Funny Girl
- Glee (every season)
Just put on the second CD to Ben-Hur. I gotta write a paper for school.
TUESDAY: Michael Davis
Check out Mark Knopfler’s LOCAL HERO soundtrack. Lush, and full of yearning and narrative.
Will do, Martha. Love the movie!
I also use soundtracks whenever I can when i work. Sometimes I’ll get ides for moods or even scenes.
I listen to glee when I’m working too. I feel 10% less shame now that I know others do. And for the sake of this comment, Mindy, you are now a 34 year old construction worker named Gary, with a wife and 3 kids.
Huh? Marc, I don’t get it.
I’ve got maybe three or four soundtrack albums besides Star Wars, including Wall-E and Ottman’s Superman, but the one I go to everytime I’m needing something orchestral is Bernard Herrmann’s “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”. Mostly if I need to boost my circulation, I pop on Dave Edmunds, Dire Straits, Blue Oyster Cult, or whatever tickles my fancy at the moment. Martha, the last track on Straits’ “Alchemy” is a magnificent live version of the “Local Hero” theme. It grabs me by the heartstrings everytime.
You missed Sondheim’s Into the Woods!! You’re obviously a huge fan, so maybe you just haven’t caught this one on stage, but it is absolute genius. My favorite musical, EVER, for just the reason you said — it conveys situational moods and emotion perfectly, and besides that, the lyrics are *brilliant*. It’s about everyday families ans the ways that they’te messed up and dysfunctional and how you have to look at that, go back and figure it out (by going “into the Woods” of your past pain) in order to see the patterns you’re repeating and change your future — it’s jusy amazing, and all in very memorable rhyme! ;) Every breakup I ever went through in my wayward youth, I’d listen to ITW over and over and never failed to be syruck by some line of Sondheim’s incredible wisdom that I’d previously missed somehow… Anyway, fellow Sondheim fan, check it out again — you won’t be sorry!
P.S. sorry for all the typos — phone makes it very difficult to scroll back and correct ’em — but I think the meaning got through. And I forgot to say that I really enjoyed your post (which I somehow got to through a circuitous path leading from clips of Catweazle on YouTube — go figure! :)
No worries about typos, Gillian!
Nope, never did see INTO THE WOODS, although I know some of the music.
Hope you come back for more!!!!