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    WARNING: this is not directly music, or film score, related material:

    I’ve noticed that a lot of writers seem to be interested in music, and vice versa – take Elfman’s writing of screenplays AND film scores, for example. (I, myself, am a writer/composition and literature teacher as well as a professional musician). That said, I was wondering if – and if so, how – people’s musical tastes influence the books they read, and vice versa. For example, I like very “musical” writing – in other words, I’m into the actual words themselves, very lyrical prose (which explains why I enjoy Nabokov so very much).

    Therefore – pending Ryan’s permission – I’d like to ask for your opinions on literature and how it has, or has not, been influenced by music. What draws you to books/short stories/microfiction? Is it the nature of the words themselves, the plot, the character development — what? How is that influenced by music? Do you find yourself listening to the same type of music, as well as reading literature that reflects the musical mood. (I like slightly off-kilter music, therefore, I like slightly off-kilter literature). Is this kind of attitude true for others? Explain…

    I guess what I’m trying to ask is this: Does the music you listen to influence what you voluntarily read, or is it the other way around? How so, why, any other relevant info? This little query is just to satiate my own nagging questions, so feel free to answer – or not answer – at will.

    Again, Ryan, I’m awaiting your “go ahead” on this one…



    Actually i one up that — my artwork inherits the music. Without it, it wouldn’t come to being.
    But this is a damn fine subject worthy of discussion, no doubt. I just dont have time to make comments…ugh


    I tend to read Tolkien, Frank Herbert, and a bunch of other little known authors like Pavel Kohout (The Widow Killer).

    Most of the stuff I read, though, tends to be either classical or occult related — with a definite emphasis on folklore (my hobby) — something I picked up when I was ill. I like the plays of Ibsen, the works of Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Gorky, and various Russian tales. I also like classic horror stories like Frankenstein, Dracula, Heart of Darkness, anything Poe related, The Haunting of Hill House, stuff by Henry James, etc. A sample of my occult collection includes: Possesed, Possesed (different title): women, witches, and demons in Imperial Russia, A History of the Occult and Magic, Fire Burn, and Faces in the Smoke, The Vanishing Hitchhiker, and Urban Legends. Anything else horror related are ghost stories books — I have about twenty books that range from Irish Ghost Stories to Chicago Haunts to The New England Ghost Files to Asian Ghost Legends. My specialty, at the moment, is Chicago ghost history and folklore because (surprise!) I live in Chicago.

    Anything else is related to abnormal psychology — lotta stuff by people at the FBI’s Investigative Support unit, criminal psychologists, exploitive books (psuedo encyclopedias that deal with the subject), some text books, and the best collection of abnormal pyschology books around: The Complete Works of Shakespeare, and The Bible.

    I think a lot of this is reflected in the music I listen to — since my favorite Elfman scores tend to be the most “haunting” ones (Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands, Dolores Claiborne, Sleepy Hollow, Family Man, A Simple Plan, etc…). Then again, my love of Dune and Lord of the Rings isn’t exactly Elfman-esque… though I always though Sleepy Hollow had a Middle Earth quality to some of the music. I do like a Russian kick to my music, though — Mars Attacks, Beetlejuice, Darkman, and NBC all have a kind of Eastern European feel to them that I appreciate.

    Which came first? I’m not sure. Sometimes I think my interest in certain types of music was influenced by my tastes in film and literature — but my love of Elfman took me to certain subjects I might not have gravitated towards. As his music evolves, I find myself having a more open mind toward new things.

    He HAS had an influence on my artwork — which tends to be dark, atmospheric, and more lonely than anything (I always draw while listening to something like A Simple Plan or Edward or Batman Returns). So there ya go.

    Hope that sufficiently creeped the living $#it outta you. ;-)

    Peace Love and all that Jazz. . .

    PS — while I won’t SPEAK for Ryan, I think the fact that people were using off topic posts to bash other composers irked more than the fact that they were actually off topic. I THINK you’re safe, Erika. :-)


    Tex –

    Hey, hey! You’re talking to someone who goes on bimonthly ghost hunting trips, complete with camping in cemetaries, in the summer. It’s what I live for! I think it all started because my granny owns a funeral home – yes, embalming the dead in sort of the “family business.” Haha…I LOVE creeping my students out with stories about granny’s house. *evil grin*

    Yes, “Russianness” is a very good thing. My dream is to live in Saint Petersburg and have enough money to live in a squalid-if-need-be flat and write all day. If you like Russian authors, might I suggest Vladimir Nabokov? He’s my most favorite – after the always-depressing-yet-darkly-satisfying Sylvia Plath. If you’re really looking for a Russian quality to your literature – or at least how in interacts iwth typical white-bread-Americanism – I’d suggest “Pnin.” It’s in his collected works. “Ada” is also good – sick and twisted, but that’s what makes it great!

    I’ll agree that I must have “dark” music on when I read – or at the very least something with a melancholic twinge to it. Lately, I’ve been listening to “Black Beauty” while reading a lot of Kerouac, and if that doesn’t throw you into a bit of a downward spiral, I don’t know what would! And then at night – which is my most productive time – I have my ritual of listening to “Into the Woods/The Witch” on “Sleepy Hollow” continually while working on my thesis. It helps me delve into character, I guess you could say. A lot of times, after reading Plath, I’ll need to listen to something a bit more lighthearted – like Beetlejuice – to help bring up my general outlook on life :)

    So, yeah, I guess I’m not sure either what comes first – enjoyment of music, or literature, as a reflection on my mood at that particular time. Interesting comment you had there…


    I’m glad you mentioned this subject, for I always listen to music while I read and try to find connections between it and the book I’m reading. In addition, I just sit and daydream about possible scores of possible movies that are based on books I read. Also, I am currently writing a short story about how a movie adversely alters the life of a boy, and one of the factors is music. Here is a quote: “As the music built to its final climax, Jake’s prickly sensation rose in a violent and gripping crescendo. It felt as if somebody was holding him in an inescapably tight embrace, cutting off his breathing. As of now he was completely captivated: only when the music stopped and the screen blackened did Jake awaken from his two-hour trance.”

    Tell me what you think


    Well, I’ve got a degree in English, and minored in Visual Art. Which basically means, your asking for trouble!

    In general, I like anything from Edgar Allan Poe (the man) to J.D. Sallinger (Catcher in the Rye, and Nine Stories).

    I enjoy some of Stephen King’s works (I’m more fond of his short stories than the tremendously long ones, although “The Shining” was brilliant, and “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” was a great read). And his theories are interesting, especially in “On Writing.” (that, and I just think it’s hysterical that such a “creepy” guy is so incredibly normal)!

    And I love all of Neil Gaiman’s works (I’d recommend “American Gods” to anyone who wants to know how to tell a good story). He started out writing on the “Sandman” comics (well, actually, he re-invented it), and was the first comic writer to actually win literary awards. He’s probably the greatest pure story teller I’ve ever ran across. If I could write half as good as him and Sallinger before I die, I’d die happy!

    Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickenson, William Blake, and T.S. Eliot are among my favorite poets. I like the way Plath and Dickenson play around with words, but in a more subtle way than most poets–their poems are short, sweet, and appear to be straightforward. And Blake was one of the first writers to combine his art with his poems, so I admire him for that. And I think Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” are among my most favorite non-Edgar poems.

    I used to read Anne Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire” at least once a month! It still ranks up there with one of my favorite books of all time. And there’s Tim O’Brien, who wrote this amazing piece of metafiction called, “The Things They Carried.” It’s actually about his own personal experiences in Vietnam, but it’s so well written, that you don’t mind that it’s about war.

    Oh, and I tend to set my poems up the same way Lawrence Ferenghetti does–you know, the way he arranges them on the page.

    Anyways, that’d be it for my favorite writers. As for art, I’ll just do a brief blurb: I love Vincent Van Gogh, Edward Gorey, and Jasper Johns–in no particular order. I admire Van Gogh’s expressionism (I’m not too good with the abstract aspect of art–that, and I can’t paint for the life of me!).

    I love to do pen and ink drawings (in addition to charcoal and graphite), which is primarily Gorey’s choice of medium, and he does these wicked little drawings of things like children dying, or made up animals (actually, I suppose he has a similar style of drawing to Tim Burton–if anyone’s ever seen Tim’s stuff). And Jasper Johns does everything–and does it well (the bastard!)

    I’m a writer myself–and like many writers I one day hope to actually make a living off of it! But anyways, when I sit down to write, and happen to be in my room, I always pop Danny into the stereo.

    Maybe it’s because I can’t stand the silence, or I’m afraid I’ll start hearing voices, or I just need to drown out the noise of outside world. But I do know that it’s impossible for me to work with just the radio going–I mean, any music that has lyrics drives me crazy when I’m trying to write. It’s like a mixed radio signal, or something!

    I do write dark and demented things (mostly when I’m dealing with poetry), but I tend to write fairly mainstream, otherwise.

    I think any form of art kinda links itself to the same type of genre in another field. I mean, I’m sure there’s some over-lapping, but I’m thinking someone who loves Disney, in general, isn’t as gung-ho about Rob Zombie, as say, someone who likes cult horror movies, you know?

    Likewise, I can’t picture Stephen King listening to a boy band while writing anything (this is a hypathetical situation, of course–maybe he does, for all I know! And that would be really scary, wouldn’t it?) But anyways, I think art does that–people tend to focus on one feeling, mood, style, whatever, and go with it.

    For example, my influences are all of the above, in addition to Sam Raimi, Tim Burton, and Danny Elfman. And, I’m not going to bore you with a whole one, but here’s a few lines from one of my poems:
    bats don’t dance with the damned
    or tempt the hand
    of some old earth-mother raven crow cackling:
    your looks will fade sooner than you think, deary
    for i’ve a knife and a mind for vengence.
    slit slash stab
    your pretty little face in.
    See, I like demented stuff. That’s not to say I won’t ever write something different, because I have. But in general, I am not going to suddenly like bubble gum pop, drawings of sunshine and rainbows, and movies where everyone lives happily ever after.

    I mean, someone once told me to write a poem about love, and I gagged profoundly. It’d be nicer if they’d said I couldn’t write worth crap, you know?

    Also, I think it depends on what someone’s more interested in. I mean, since I love words, I like a ton of authors. And yes, I love music, but my tastes are pretty limited, you dig? I mean, Danny’s it for me; he’s the only composer I’m obsessed with. And that’s fine–because I can’t write music, I can’t read music, and I don’t want to be a songwriter.

    Likewise, I’m sure people who love music more than writing tend to have a larger scope of composers they admire, and a shorter list of writers. Of course, I could very well be wrong in this theory, as well.

    Anyways, I’m sorry to have babbled for so long, and I do hope what I’ve just said makes at least a little sense! And if not, well, at least I tried!


    Dead –

    I love Gorey! I don’t pretend to be a conneseur of art or anything, but I really enjoy his work. I have this edition of “Dracula” with Gorey illustrations – it’s great!

    I think it is possible to love writing AND music equally…at least, that’s how I am. My day job is in writing/literature, but my nights revolve around music: playing with the local symphony, jamming out with the punk band that I sometimes play keyboards for, or just relaxing to some Boingo/film scores couple with a nice Chianti and fava beans – haha! ANd a lot of times, it’s both. Like I’ll invite some of my writer friends over, and we’ll have coffee, read poetry, and listen to some hip 20th century music…that’s heaven for me, anyway.

    If you like dark poetry, you might try Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he’s fantastic…or maybe Anne Sexton? They’re all lovely, dark and deep – to steal a line from Frost.

    Don’t worry about babbling. It’s the summer, and I’ve three months off from work – I’ve got nothing else to do, except finish my dissertation, read, and make up for the late nights, stressed out during the school year :)


    Well, I’ve always love Michael Crichton’s work. I’ve read every book under his real name, and a few under his noms-de-plume (weird, THATS the way you pluralize that? — after concerting my dictionary). The best book I’VE ever read was his “TRAVELS” which is an autobiography where he talks about climbing Mount. Killamanjaro, and learning how to see auras. He also talks about his ability to have out-of-body experiences at will when he was young — very cool (I’ve experienced this phenomena only once, completely).

    In my compositions I’ve based them on every thing from Roswell UFO Crash (Oratorio — still looking for a performance) to Shakespeare (a soprano solo with piano). I find it helpful to read non-fiction books in this case. I’ve recently been reading books by Graham Hancock who writes about Lost Civilizations and Anomalies on Mars. Besides Crichton I don’t read much fiction, and believe it or not, I have never read a Stephen King book. It’s not because I don’t like his work or anything like that, it’s just if I read something by an author that I like I tend to want to read everything by him (and King writes faster than I read). I know it’s not very rational, but it’s what I do. I read the first Vampire book by Anne Rice and really didn’t like it (one of the few times that I thought the movie was better than the book), so I don’t read Anne Rice. Of course If I read the wrong Crichton book (Eaters of the Dead was my least favorite) to start with I wouldn’t have read all of his great books (Congo was the first one I read).

    Oh Erica, I live down south, in Mississippi to be more exact, and our “southern heritage” is full of haunted houses and great ghost stories. I’ve talked with a friend about doing a documentary on Mississippi Ghosts, and take a couple weeks off to check those places out. This fell through, but I’ve still got it brewing in my mind.
    You wouldn’t want to join me would you. ;-)

    My Dad’s parents lived right next to a cemetery, and my Mom’s parents live next to a Civil War Battle Ground (The Battle of Corinth), and I live on an Indian Battle Ground (the battle of Akia), so you might say I’ve been surrounded by death my whole life. :-)


    Danny E –

    Well, to be quite honest, I’d have to know a bit more about the background of the story to make a well-informed decision. I like what you’ve done with the musical inserts – i.e. crescendo. Hm…I”m a very “detailed” writer, in that I use sensory imagery almost to the point of overkill. Yes, the British Decadents are a great inspiration to me — sometimes too much! I guess if I had anything to critique on your excerpt, it would be to replace “prickly sensation” with oh…something along the lines of how that prickly sensation tasted. Sounds crazy, I know, but I always think about the context of touch in terms of the other four senses. In other words, you know how when you get almost panicky about something? (I’m sort of assuming that’s what your character’s going through). Well, when that happens to me, I try to stop and experience what it tastes like, smells like, looks like, anything but what it really is – in other words, what it FEELS like. I take that experiment, scrawl the sensations down in a little notebook that I keep in my pocket, and save it for use in my writing. Observation is the key to great writing. Instead of writing WHAT happened, write HOW it happened – which I”m sure you’ve heard a million times before. Anybody can write a basic plot, but it takes a writer to make it interesting via description :)

    Uh, just a tip: don’t overanalyze things. Like if you’re having a really great time, you don’t need to stop and try to analyze it. Just try to remember as much as you can when you go home that night…or the next morning…whenever ;-)

    Nat –

    Sounds like you have one hell of a place! God, what I wouldn’t give to live there… It sounds kind of geeky, but I know the History channel has Haunted History every Friday night at 8…almost all their stuff is Southern history…you might check out the opportunities for contributing to that. I simply adore the South…well, the little I was there, anyway. I was down there for 10 days subbing for a small local symphony in Arkansas, and it was just gorgeous. Hey, if you ever need someone to work with you on ghost hunting, drop me a line :)

    The pen is mightier,


    Ok, I’ll do that. Thanks for the input

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