Up until about a year and half ago, I never considered music to be all that helpful when doing any sort of writing. I was indifferent to what I would play when doing any creative work or anything else, rotating my playlists between anime, western pop and rock, J-pop, Bollywood, Indian pop and some other random music. And then I started to do some real creative writing and over time, I quickly learned to value some good writing music, inspired mostly by a thread on the Bolthole: A Soundtrack To My Writing. There were a hell of a lot of great suggestions there and I developed a real taste for Original Soundtracks (OST) from movies. Over time, that taste also grew to include a wide variety of video game OSTs and now, 18 months later, my music collection includes dozens of complete OSTs.
These days, I usually prefer OSTs to any usual music, particularly because tracks with lyrics don’t stimulate me as much as lyric-less tracks. This really hit home during NaNoWriMo in november last year, and my greatest find in writing music was a friend’s suggestion: Two Steps From Hell. All of a sudden, my productivity gained a big boost because my writing started to flow much faster and much more smoothly than before. About seventy percent of Raven and Blood was written to their awesome music and I particularly love the Archangel and Invincible albums, although Nemesis isn’t too far behind either. The best thing about the TSFH tracks is that they are so sweeping and epic, and they put me in the right frame of mind when writing the novel since it is meant to be high/epic fantasy. It constantly conjures up images of breathtaking vistas from World of WarCraft and it really evokes J.R.R Tolkien’s Silmarillion for me, which is really appropriate for Raven and Blood.
I will also add that at the time of writing, TSFH has been a great boost to me for getting back in the groove regarding Project: In The Emperor We Trust. Their music has helped me get out of my writing funk and now I am a much happier writer than I was barely a week ago.
Proper movie OSTs are also plain awesome for writing, and my particular favourites are the tracks from Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers, Tron: Legacy, Underworld: Awakening, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. They are all fantastic tracks with a great variety in the music and I alternate between them frequently when doing any of my creative work. They all get you right down into the mindset for writing and they are so good that I’d be writing and the music is playing and several minutes would pass before I even realise that tracks have changed! Music to lose yourself to indeed.
And of course, if you really want to go full on atmospheric, then the OST from the original Conan the Barbarian (the Arnie version) is pretty much unbeatable. Basil Poledouris is just epic on this one.
If I just want to have some fun while doing the more mundane writing, like blogging or reviewing, I usually go for something more lighthearted. And that includes, at least most of the time, Disney OSTs like
- Aladdin – Brad Kane, Robin Williams, Lea Salonga, Regina Belle and Peabo Bryson are just plain fantastic. I’ve listened to their tracks so many times that I can almost sing-along perfectly with them. My absolute favourite is the A Whole New World track with Brad Kane and Lea Salonga.
- Hercules – I am totally in love with the tracks sung by Roger Bart and Michael Bolton, the Go The Distance tracks which are so inspirational and moving at the same time, but I have to say that Michael Bolton is absolutely great in Go The Distance (single).
- The Little Mermaid – While all the tracks on this album are absolutely worth listening to, it is Jodi Benson’s Part of your World that totally blows me away everytime I listen to the album. It is one of the most light-hearted tracks I’ve ever listened to.
- The Lion King – Just as with The Little Mermaid, The Lion King is another great album (something that Disney clearly excels at obviously) but I have to say that Elton John’s composition of Hakuna Matata, Can You Feel The Love Tonight and I Just Want To Be King are just plain stellar. They are wonderful tracks that have been performed very well and such a joy to listen to, regardless of the time of day or whatever I am working on.
- Titanic – Celine Dion, enough said.
- Transformers (1986) – A sequel to the TV show at the time, this is one of the best animated movies ever for me and the selection of music on the OST is just superb. Like seriously, ow many people have NOT listened to (and sung along) Stan Bush’s The Touch, Weird Al Yankovic’s (who rocks by the way) Dare To Be Stupid? Truly lighthearted music for when you just want to unwind after a hard day’s work of writing!
The gentleness and easy nature of these movie soundtracks mean that I am really able to just relax while listening to them and they are a good counterpoint to the usually high-paced, sweeping tracks I listen to while doing my creative work.
Of course, any number of tracks from dozens of Bollywood films over the years are also what I use every now and then. I try most of the time to keep changing between a fairly big variety of music because sticking myself to one obsessively ultimately only hampers my writing and gives me no benefit at all. While I’m not trying to maximise the experience, because in my opinion that is just not possible, I do try to keep my audio preferences fairly varied.
Where video games are concerned, my interests are just as varied as anything else in my collections. Some of the music I really prefer:
- World of WarCraft – Few things can epitomize epic more than the music for the four World of WarCraft albums, or the special edition WarCraft Mosaic album that was an exclusive at Blizzcon 2009. A lot of my Sons of Corax fan-fic was written to this music and the writing flowed quite well. I would list some of my top tracks from across the original and the expansions, but that would be quite the BIG list so I’ll hold off on that. However, I would really recommend World of WarCraft, Wrath of The Lich King and Mosaic (if you can find it) to everyone. Some of the best tracks from the entire franchise are in these three albums.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution – I only recently got this album and so far, I am quite liking it. Good variation in the tracks and while I have no favourites as of yet, I do have my eye on the Icarus theme.
- StarCraft 2 – Due to some hard drive snafus, my collection is sadly incomplete but I have to say that StarCraft has some really stirring music and I can listen to it again and again without getting tired. The Arcturus Mengsk Speech track from the original game in particular is mind-blowing, as are the StarCraft 2 Compilation and StarCraft 2 Theme tracks.
- Dawn of War 2 – An absolutely free OST (who doesn’t love free stuff?), this is one of the best albums to do some creative writing for. A fair part of Raven and Blood and Sons of Corax has been written to this and it is one of my albums of choice for In The Emperor We Trust as well. Start to finish, this is one of the best video game OSTs ever. The four opening tracks – There is Only War, Angels of Death, Primarch’s Honour and No Mercy No Respite are just rocking.
- Assassin’s Creed – The original game has some really good music, particularly the various Jerusalem tracks. I have the albums for all the three games but sadly I have yet to listen to them in full which I admit is a failing on my part because the series has some of the best tracks ever.
Other than these, I sometimes listen to the original Halo and Shadows Of the Colossus as well. I also have my eye on getting the Skyrim OST if I can because I’ve been listening to it on StreamingSoundtracks when I can and it is absolutely amazing all around.
For my all-time favourites, its the anime OSTs which totally win out in the end. Most animes have superb soundtracks and this really shows, whether they are original tracks or tracks performed/licensed by various J-pop artists.
Note: I speak crap-all Japanese (meaning NONE) and understand none of it either so I may be slightly weird in that respect!
- Mobile Suit Gundam – Nothing beats the Gundam franchise for the top spot here and MSG has some of the best in anime music. Destiny and Destiny: SEED are the ones I’m talking about here because I am totally in love with their music. Nami Tamaki’s songs, Believe, Reason and Realize in particular, are my top picks because they are all fast-paced, pop-y and really, really evocative. Although I do have to say that Anna Ni Isshodatta No Ni, Akatsuki No Kuruma (actual anime video), Kiseki, Kimi Wa Boku Ni Niteiru, Life Goes On, Sorrow and Ignited are among the best in the entire duology. In fact all these songs I mentioned are ones I usually put on repeat when I’m in the anime mood. They are quite the ecletic mix and I rate Akatsuki No Kuruma as the best anime song ever because it is the saddest and yet most uplifting track ever. That is one song that I can listen to non-stop for days on end. Of course, there are also a few tracks from the other Gundam shows that I love as well for when I’m writing. Wana (by The Back Horn) and Daybreak’s Bell (by L’arc en ciel) are more top picks and pretty much all the Two-Mix tracks from Mobile Suit Gundam Wing.
- Code Geass – An absolutely amazing anime with music to match. The opening track, 0, Stories, Prologue and Stream of Consciousness are just so surreal to me. I don’t listen to the OSTs that much though, preferring to listen to them while driving or reading more than when I’m writing. Too much variety can be the death of me you see. But I do recommend checking out the music since as the saying goes: different strokes for different people.
- Rurouni Kenshin – Such joyful music on this one. There are quite a few albums for this anime but I prefer the original soundtracks. Heart of Sword, Tactics, Frozen Flare, Departure and The Last Wolf Suite are my favourites. Can’t live without them. Although they are in the same boat as the Code Geass and I don’t listen to the Kenshin albums that much for my writing anymore since my video game OST collection has largely usurped that niche.
- Among others, there are quite a few tracks from some of the other equally popular anime that I really like. Cruel Angel’s Thesis and the EVA Refrain tracks from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shiki No Uta from Samurai Champloo, The Road to Zanarkand from Final Fantasy and most of the tracks from the Best of Inuyasha album are my favourites.
In general anime music formed a very core part of my early writing experience and continues to do so today, although it is more restricted these days and I listen to them mostly for other recreational moments. Listening to a selection of these tracks while I’m plotting projects, or doing some editing or doing my blogging/reviewing work is always a great pleasure indeed. Anime music also ends up introducing you to the wider world of music and I’ve quickly learned to like several Japenese artists like Nami Tamaki, Mika Arisaka, Mika Nakashima, Utada Hikaru, Aya Hirano, The Back Horn, Rie Tanaka and several anime composers like Tatsuya Ishii and Toshihiko Sahashi as well.
If anything I would say that maintaining a really varied music collection is a must for any aspiring writer, not in the least because it is a practice widely adopted by most established writers and if you follow their blogs or their twitter feeds or even read their interviews, this will be very much clear to you. I usually make it a point to ask all writers a question about their writing music preferences when I interview them for the Black Library Bolthole blog, The Bloghole.
Suffice to say that I really enjoy my music, having over 415 hours of songs in all.
Posted on February 13, 2012, in 24FPS, Age of Dusk, Bolthole, Book Reviews, General, In The Emperor We Trust, Music, NaNoWriMo, Sons of Corax and tagged Aladdin, Anime Music, Assassin's Creed, Batman, Bollywood, Code Geass, Conan the Barbarian, Dawn of War 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Disney OSTs, Gundam SEED, Gundam SEED: Destiny, Halo, Hercules, L'arc en ciel, Mobile Suit Gundam, Movie OSTs, Nami Tamaki, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Streaming Soundtracks, The Back Horn, The Two Towers, Transformers, Tron Legacy, Two Steps From Hell, Underworld, Video Game OSTs, World of Warcraft, Writing Music. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.