Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Mystical Muse of Music. (Or: What's on Your End of Life Playlist?)

My grandfather died of Alzheimer's. (I know, technically, that's not true. Alzheimer's doesn't kill you, the medical pro's say. To which I respond: Of course it does. Slowly. Sucking away your existence one memory at a time...)

To lose the memories that one has spent a lifetime collecting is a callous, cruel joke one's brain plays on the body and soul. The process of losing oneself to Alzheimer's is slow... insidious... It's spread so thinly over such a long period of time that even the person losing his or her mind is aware of the impending disappearance, though powerless to stop it.

To this day, every time I find myself searching for a dropped word or a lost train of thought, a part of me wonders: Is this how it begins?

That's why I love the life and hope that shines through this video. (It's a little over 6 minutes. It's a wonderful 6 minutes...)

No, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. But imagine the joys of discovering a back door to reclaim lost memories! Wouldn't a reprieve, no matter how fleeting, be preferable to aimlessly wandering the uncharted caverns of your mind?

Music speaks so personally to us. There is a chemistry to music -- an elusive allure, much like the chemistry of pheromones that might spark feelings in one person I meet, but not in another. The music that moves me doesn't necessarily move my husband or my daughter in the same way.

The characters I create, if they are full, well-rounded, and complete also have their musical preferences. If music could literally bring my characters to life in much the same way as it affects the elderly patients in the above video clip, what would it take to play them awake? If I know the answer, I can infuse it in my writing, energizing and enervating the people therein.

I know some writers who have playlists of writing music. I rarely do this -- finding that music, especially music with words, distracts rather than inspires. But when in the getting-to-know-you phase of character-building, I find it very helpful to determine what each character's musical preferences are. That knowledge helps make the character "real" in a way few other exercises can compare with.

Music gives us knowledge of each other because it introduces us to ourselves. So -- I'm sort-of seriously beginning to compile my own End of Life Playlist. I know what songs would remind me of who I am. What songs would be on yours?


David Brown said...

Great post! You're so right, that music tells us so much about each other. I had never considered delving into my character's musical preferences, at least not when they are not glaringly obvious. Thanks for the thoughts.

Ami Hendrickson said...

Thanks for the comment, David. My current WIP prominently features a male MC and a female who is *much* younger than I. I was afraid that I would make either or both of them sound too much like me. Then I went the music route, and both instantly had their unique voices. :)

[Funny, the one loves stuff I'm not crazy about, but I don't mind it if I'm listening from her perspective. I'm weird that way.]

David Brown said...

That means that you're listening to your characters. I discover characters' voices quickly once I go through the dialogue and begin removing my own pausing phrases. Amazing how those things find their way in there... :)

Ami Hendrickson said...

David: I love your description of "removing my own pausing phrases." Am currently doing just that.

Me -- "Blast! Those are my words coming out of his mouth again." ::grumble:: ~wields Vorpal Sword of Editing Doom and charges back into the fray~

David Brown said...

May the winds be at your back! Edit well, my friend, edit well...