More often than not I play film and video game soundtracks, or New Age, since these are typically instrumental works. Music with vocals tends to muddy my writing, as I either sing along or try to block out the lyrics as I write. There are exceptions, though. The important thing is that the music is merely background, and isn’t meant to be focused on while I create a new story. It is an atmosphere, much like lighting and temperature often are for the writer.
Since I mentioned it as the first written work I created while listening to music, I’ll start with ‘Prophet of Pathways’. Initially I went for droning, New-Age relaxation music, then I put on Spencer Nielsen’s soundtrack to Ecco the Dolphin. Yes, an old video game score, but effective at some points. Its dreamy, melancholy melodies inspired how I portrayed a character’s emotions as I wrote. Yet for the darkness of my Meridian setting, I gravitated towards Apex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II, especially the tracks ‘Matchsticks’ and ‘Blue Calx’. These odd pieces could have been soundscapes from a psychological horror film. But I still hadn’t found the perfect musical match to this story until I added Vangelis’s soundtrack from the film Blade Runner, as well as the expanded music from the 25th Anniversary edition. Tracks such as ‘Blade Runner Blues’, ‘Longing’, ‘Empty Streets’, ‘Perfume Exotico’, and ‘Spotkanie z matka’ melded with my story in such a way I think of it as Meridian’s soundtrack instead. When I revised ‘Prophet’, I put on my Enigma collection. Finally I had found material that contained the sensual overtones I intended for the novel. My favorite Enigma album for this was A Posteriori, particularly the tracks ‘Dancing With Mephisto’, ‘Hello and Welcome’, and ‘20,000 Miles over the Sea’. Sexy, surreal, and dark all at the same time.
My next big project was ‘The Fire of the Wheel’. I selected Celtic music while I wrote it, with artists such as Enya and Clannad becoming favorites. In further revisions, I moved towards Diane Arkenstone’s This Sacred Land, with its Native American beats and chants. Thom Brennan’s material, like his Mist album, with its droning whispers of melody and depth of sound, helped me lose myself in those Colonial forests within Rourke and Amadahy’s world.
When it came time to write ‘A Star in Hand’ (later retitled ‘Inheritance’) I went for music that brought a sense of wonder, a sense of space and the universe. Music appropriate to science fiction, of starships traveling through the void. The best example of this was Laura Barrett’s main theme from the video game Master of Orion II: Battle at Antares. With a choral loop that plays over a background of synth effects, it is something I can listen to for hours and never tire of (literally). It must be heard to be appreciated. For actions scenes, I listened to David Arkenstone’s soundtrack for Emperor: Battle for Dune. His guitar work and electronic beats pumped me up for all those battles on Umiracan, Tejuit, and the finale at Bos-Euex. In later revisions, I also added Brian Eno’s ‘Prophecy Theme’ from the 1984 Dune soundtrack, and his Apollo album (some of the best space music ever composed), Michael McCann’s excellent soundtrack to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and even tracks for Daft Punk’s score for the film Tron: Legacy. These last two featured dark, ambient electronica and pulse-pounding action music that went perfectly with my novel. In fact, I can envision a trailer for ‘Inheritance’ with the ‘Intro’ theme playing over it from Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Last but not least was a single track from the Unreal Tournament III soundtrack, ‘Mekalopolis’. It could also act as trailer music for this story.
For other works, I have selected what helped put me into these imaginary worlds the best. When I write Calandren stories, Thom Brennan’s work again pops up, especially Vibrant Water and Shimmer. Slumber tales are accompanied by Howard Shore’s scores from the Lord of the Rings films, and Jeremy Soule’s work, from his soundtracks to Morrowind, and the first two Dungeon Siege games. Wages of Cinn stories starring Roxie Trent cause me to break out industrial and electro-rock artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Orgy, Zeromancer, Billy Idol’s Cyberpunk album, and Alexander Brandon’s soundtrack to Deus Ex: Invisible War. Vangelis’s other film soundtracks, especially 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Alexander, have proven to be musical staples while I write.
I’m excited to hear what new music I’ll come across in the future that I can add to this roster. Though it isn’t necessary for me to write a story, it does add something extra to the experience. A dream would be for a composer to create music inspired by my writings, using his or her melodies and harmonies to fill in the spaces where even words cannot go.