Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of 2011: Writing Music

I don't know about you, but Best of 2011 lists are quickly becoming my blog crack now that the Christmas festivities have come to a close. I think this is for two reasons: they help me to remember what I loved (or, er...didn't like), and they make me aware of things that I missed. This year my friend Sarah Enni organized a blog circus in which me and some other wonderful people will be making our "Best of 2011" lists, including music, books, characters, the works.

Today is all about writing music. Not necessarily new music, but music that was new to us this year.

I am not at all particular about music genre when it comes to writing music. I don't care if it's bubble-gum pop or country or metal, I'll listen to it if it helps me to "see" the story, so to speak. I also don't always listen to albums, because while one song from a particular artist might work for whatever I'm writing, all the other songs may not. But there have been a few instances in which whole albums helped me with the writing process, so I'm going to list those for you here. (You may be able to tell that the things I've written this year have been pretty different from each other.)

1. Bon Iver (self-titled)

I didn't always like Bon Iver-- something about the mumbling, I think. But sometimes an album hits you in the right place at the right time, and last year, "For Emma" was that way for me. So when the new album came out this year, I was all over it. Several moody, thoughtful, or just plain sad scenes have been ushered along in their emotional development by this CD.

Best of the Best: "Holocene"

2. "Divenire" by Ludovico Einaudi

I've actually had this album for a long time, but it was one of those things I got and didn't listen to right away. And then a few weeks ago, while starting something new, it came on in the shuffle and BAM, instant mood-establisher. It's just piano, so it's like listening to your own movie soundtrack while you write. 

Best of the Best: "Primavera"

3. "Firecracker" and "40 Days" by The Wailin' Jennys

I'm cheating, because that's two albums. But I listen to them as a unit. Often I like to set things in the rural Midwest (obviously nothing Divergent-related), and these albums have a folky, countryish, quiet quality that makes me think of vast cornfields and straight roads and snowdrifts. These albums also got me through some hard times this past year, in a way. They helped me find the beauty in the difficulty.

Best of the Best: "Arlington" and "Glory Bound"

4. "Memento Mori" by Flyleaf

This is also cheating, because I've talked before about writing Divergent to this album. After I finished the rough draft of Divergent, though, I never listened to it again, because I was so tired of it. Then this year, while writing Insurgent, I put it on again, and there it was. Same inspiring effect. This is some intense music, perfect for an intense story.

Best of the Best: "Chasm"

5. "Sigh No More" by Mumford and Sons

This is another album that got me through the hard times last winter. I also wrote to it-- I'm pretty sure that each one of the stories I dipped into this year had at least one of these songs associated with it, at some point. It's pretty great.

Best of the Best: "White Blank Page" (if you don't like it at first, skip to about the 40 second mark, because that's when it really gets going.)

So there you have it: my top writing albums of 2011. Other honorable mentions are "Absolution" by Muse, "This Is War" by 30 Seconds to Mars, and "Invincible" by Two Steps From Hell.

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