I read and reread the Essay in the New York Times Book Review this Sunday, in which Haruki Murakami talks about becoming a writer and the influence of jazz.
"Whether in music or in fiction, the most basic thing is rhythm. Your style needs to have a good, natural, steady rhythm... Next comes melody -- which, in literature, means the appropriate arrangement of words to match the thythm." He says his style is as deeply influenced by Charlie Parker as F. Scott Fitzgerald, by Miles Davis, by Thelonious Monk.
When I write, I prefer silence, or indeed, jazz. I can listen to U2, of all bands, as long as I don't pay attention to the lyrics, letting sound flow in the background. (My daughter, peeking over my shoulder, asked why I don't mention The Who, her favorite band. There, I did, but I can't write to them.) I like complicated music when I write, if I listen at all, but it needs to be on low and it needs to be such that I can choose not to pay attention to its complexity, instead allowing the whole to wash over me.
When I am not writing, I still love jazz and blues and rock. And folk. And classical. I like music played by the person who wrote it. Take the rock genre alone. I love James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt. I love John Mayer and Aerosmith, The Who, KT Tunstall, Miles Davis, Dixie Chicks, Tom Petty, David Bowie, The Beatles, Brian Wilson, Annie Lennox, Bob Dylan, the Fray, Dave Matthews, Stevie Nicks and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I love musicians who string together more than notes, adding in the poetry of lyrics.
I once thought that if you wanted to teach children who "hate to write" to write, you would sit them down and ask what is on their iPods. What are the songs? What do they say? Write them out on a chalkboard or SmartBoard or a roll of poster paper. Wrap the room in words they love. Then you could throw in a poem, not letting them know it didn't come with a melody. Then slide in a short story. Use music to show them their world is filled with writers and words, tell them anyone can put them together, one by one. Ask them to write a line, to arrange words to match the rhythm of their lives, then to keep that rhythm steady, to keep it going. Just keep going.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007