Sparking the Tindersticks

Last evening after my reading in Grand Rapids, an audience member asked me what kind of music I listened to. I told him that was a great big can of good worms, because writing and music for me are inextricably linked. I often listen to music, albeit a very narrow stylistic window of music, when I write. I love Post-Rock, or ambient. No words. Eno’s “On Land” is amazing, and I often listen to that before or while writing. During the writing of American Prophet, it was all Silver Mt. Zion’s album “He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corners of Our Rooms,” as well as Miserere by Allegri. That particular soundtrack; that music, was the cloak I wrapped myself in to write. Often, I looked at one of my wife’s photo books of the work of Antony Gormley, as well as her own sculptures, which were inspirational. The photographs of Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, too. This December, while writing poems in my manuscript “Severance,” I had the film “Heima” by Sigur Ros playing in a window on my desktop while composing. Several of the images in “Severance” are directly from “Heima,” as is, I feel, the mood of the poems. I wonder what this relationship is: this way of setting off sparks to get one’s own creativity going. Of course it helps me get in the zone to read some poems beforehand, too. Often I have to read at least one Dylan Thomas poem to get going. Or others. Sometimes I’ll meditate for 10 minutes or so. Creative foreplay, perhaps! But I don’t like to simply sit down and start writing. It never works. What gets you going?

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2 thoughts on “Sparking the Tindersticks

  1. I’m definitely a music person when I write. I always bring pen and paper to concerts because I never know when words will come. Something about being still, focused, and reflective while you listen to someone perform–things I should be at home but am not!

  2. Robert, What a great time at your workshop and reading! And what fun it was to go to dinner with you, meet Linda and Tony, and hang out with Zach. One of the finest days of my life!
    I often listen to Pandora when I write. Do you know Pandora.com, where you create your own radio stations? I have a station Red Sparrows Radio and another called Russian Circles radio. These are kind of heavy metal, but at low volumn, very good writing music. I’ve written the most listening to the sound track from “The Hours,” by Mark Isham. I have a Mark Isham radio station on Pandora as well. I’ll try Miser

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