Music for Writing and Editing

I frequently get recommendations for new music to listen to from my son and daughter; they know what I like, and often find new groups, or groups I’ve never heard of, for me to try. One of my current favorites is Mumford and Sons. Another is Aqualung.

But I find that I can’t listen to their music, or any others where lyrics are featured, when I am editing. No matter how hard I try, I cannot keep the words of the songs from registering on my mind, and interfering with the task at hand–that is, editing other people’s words. For editing, my choice is classical music, preferably symphonic. I’m not a lover of classical piano music or violin features, but give me the full symphonic sound and I can happily edit for hours. Sometimes, if I’m in a specific mood, I’ll choose specific composers (Vivaldi, or Moussorgsky, or Wagner, or Telleman, or Mozart). Other times, I leave the selection to Pandora, willingly accepting most of what I am offered.

On the other hand, if I am writing fiction, I often choose music with words, especially if I am trying to feed a certain emotion, or build an environment for myself in which to write. Oddly, I think most people would say, I find that music from the Civil War is great for eliciting emotions of various kinds. I also like Edith Piaf, for other emotions. And Marian Anderson, Paul Robeson, and Mahalia Jackson are great for  depth, as they plumb the soul.

I can’t listen to music constantly throughout the day; my ears simply get tired and it all becomes just noise. But I know when I need to feed my mind, my spirit, my emotions…or simply get carried away as I edit, lifting my mind off the page and into that realm where I work without effort or noticing the passage of time.

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