Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Music & Writing ~ Kissin’ Cousins

Many authors can’t even write if their favorite music isn’t playing

Some writers have special music they play for each character in their story…

Even though I treasured books as a youth and considered English as a major in college, until I got to my 40s, Music was my Muse.

I played brass instruments as a child—sang in the church and later on the secular stage.

Even when I did write some poetry or attempt a story, I “thought” of the writing as a performance nearly identical to music.

One huge difference with writing was that I was much more the conductor, weaving and integrating the many voices

Some folks even ponder the philosophic snares of whether music should ever have words blended with it—those who champion “absolute music”.

I’ve had a number of interesting conversations over the years about the relative Meanings of the music of songs and their words—each can carry different meaning and great conflict can be created this way

There is, of course, great conflict in the halls of the scholars of literature and music—much debate over what constitutes “proper” literature or music.

Personally, I find the Spirit of Music to be closely related to the Spirit of Literature—word and tone having sprung from the same human Roots

Still you can find ideas like the following (from Wikipedia):

“Also being investigated is the question of why music developed in the first place. The first attempts to put music in an evolutionary framework were made by Charles Darwin who said in his 1871 book The Descent of Man, ‘Musical notes and rhythm were first acquired by the male or female progenitors of mankind for the sake of charming the opposite sex.’ Today there is active research in the evolution of music, with some evidence supporting Darwin’s hypothesis that it was used for mating and other evidence suggesting that music was a means of social organization and communication in early cultures.”

Somehow, I just can’t see our ancestors using only musical offerings to woo their mates. I feel they had ample provocation to use words as well, and the combined use of word and tone in the drama of the sexes may have been the first pop music :-)

Certainly a blog post is not the place to attempt anything like a complete analysis of the relation of writing and music-making; but, just before I offer some music:

How do you feel about the relation of word and tone?

If you compose music, is it anything like writing a story?

How “similar” do you feel these two arts of humanity are?

As you listen to the music from this orchestra, composed of the cream of the Venezuelan crop of high-school musicians, do you hear a story unfolding?

Are there characters interacting?

Is there a plot?

The two offerings are Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, 2nd movement, and Arturo Márquez’ Danzón No. 2 — And, you can read about the Amazing Conductor, Gustavo Dudamel

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14 responses to “Music & Writing ~ Kissin’ Cousins

  1. Simone Benedict March 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    For me, I often feel a direct relationship between a work of specific piece of writing and a musical piece. I can’t listen to music during a first draft because I’m “hearing” while I write and the music interferes. For a lot of my current blog posts I hear a country song. That’s very weird for me because I’m not a big fan of that kind of music, especially the trucking ones.

    One reason I really like this post of yours Alexander is because I’ve written a pending post that was inspired by a cover performance of an old song. It’s so wacky and off the wall I probably won’t share it (the song performance), but it totally worked for me! :-)


    • Alexander M Zoltai March 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm


      Always good to hear from you and ponder your thoughts and feelings.

      I like your bringing up the internal music you hear as you write.

      And, the point that music can act as a writing prompt is extremely valuable.

      Thanks :-)

      P.S.: Did you like the video??


  2. Shari Green March 16, 2012 at 4:39 am

    Interesting post! You really got me thinking about whether composing is anything like writing a story. I’ve never thought about it before, but I think for me, there is a similar moment — that heady, muse-y moment when you feel the potential of something, a sense of the finished story or piece of music that inspires you even as it drifts away again like smoke. And then begins the work of crafting it, trying to grasp that elusive thing and capture it in notes or words.

    There may be other similarities, too — communicating emotions, maintaining tension, etc. Thanks for getting me thinking! ;)


    • Alexander M Zoltai March 16, 2012 at 4:51 am

      Well, Shari, thanks go to you, too, for helping us all think through the issue a bit :-)

      I especially like when you said:

      “…that heady, muse-y moment when you feel the potential of something, a sense of the finished story or piece of music that inspires you even as it drifts away again like smoke.”

      Rather musical, those words………


  3. manonmona March 17, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Reblogged this on Espacio de MANON and commented:


  4. Alexander M Zoltai December 28, 2013 at 2:53 am

    Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:

    Originally posted March 14, 2012 — Now, one of my Rare Saturday posts — Some of the Very Best Music Ever Performed — Every writer should listen and let their Muse DANCE :-)


  5. Niamh Brown December 28, 2013 at 5:23 am

    The first real writing I ever did was writing songs when I learned to play the guitar. Before I could play an instrument I used to listen to music, shut my eyes and make up music videos in my head. This imaginative process I still use when writing stories. I have to see it and hear in my mind and then I can write it. I need solitude and quietude to write, although if I get in the zone this may not matter as I’m in a world of my own.

    When I write a song I can often hear the music in my head and try and figure out what chords it is afterwards. The lyrics sometimes just come out unintentionally if I just play the accompanying music enough, as if the song is already written I’m just playing it for the first time through a process of Chinese whispers between myself and my muse.

    So I think there is overlap between the two creative processes of music and writing, for me at least. I know there are many creative ways to create art.


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