Whistle while you work

Earlier this evening, I booked tickets for a performance by the Philharmonia orchestra here in Leicester in June 2014 – normally I wouldn’t book anything so far in advance, but the good tickets seemed to be selling pretty quickly already, and my other half has recently become a huge Shostakovich fan, so the chance to see a first-class orchestra play his 5th Symphony wasn’t something we wanted to miss.

I’ve never been much of a classical music buff, but recently I’ve been raiding our shared music archive for some new writing music, and I’ve found Shostakovich fits the bill quite admirably. There are quiet, reflective passages, and huge apocalyptic bombastic passages – there’s delicacy as well as blood and thunder. We have a copy of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 performed by the Houston Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Stokowski that I’ve played over and over while writing The Chimney Rabbit and the Underground Mice – we bought it for pennies from the Amazon MP3 store, and I’ve definitely got my money’s worth out of it.

I used to work or write while listening to a whole array of different types of music, but in the past few months I’ve been finding that I can’t listen to songs – the words seem to get in the way and affect my concentration when getting my own words down. So in addition to the Shostakovich, I’ve been listening to a lot of the Skyrim soundtrack by Jeremy Soule, four discs of ideal writing music, as well as other video game soundtracks, including Brian Tyler’s Far Cry 3 and Jesper Kyd’s Assassin’s Creed 2. I’ve been listening to film and TV soundtracks, too – Howard Shore’s score for The Hobbit, and Murray Gold’s Doctor Who music. Whenever I’ve needed the musical equivalent of a double-shot of espresso, though, I’ve always been able to turn to the albums put out by the trailer music outfit Two Steps from Hell – usually one- to two-minute tracks of condensed epic music, ideal for getting the brain juices flowing.

It’s strange how my writing moods change over time, too, and how sometimes I have to flick to my music player and change the album because what worked yesterday just wasn’t working today.

But sometimes the most important thing about listening to music is that when I’ve got my earphones on, my other half knows that I’m not just fiddling about on my laptop, but I’m “in the office” – it’s a handy replacement for a big “DO NOT DISTURB” sign. She’s always been great about giving me the time to do my writing – probably because she’s a writer herself, and knows how valuable maintaining your concentration can be – but it helps that I’ve got a way to indicate that I’m working without having to say anything.


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