More about the Monastery playlist

January 29, 2013

I’ve mentioned the ‘Monastery playlist’ a few times on this blog before, but since Nanopals has a post up today talking about the writing process and mentioning music, I thought I’d go into a bit more detail about the music of the monastery, how I found it, and what part it plays in my writing.

First off, generally I love writing to music. Finding a great song to write to is a gift, but if I like a song, generally it’s seldom ‘bad’ music to write to, especially during Nano or when I’m otherwise pantsing my way recklessly through a first draft. Editing is a bit different, it needs a bit more concentration, and for a while that was something that wasn’t quite falling into place with my writing process; editing in silence was too quiet, (unless I was reading my own work aloud as part of the editing process,) but most music was too distracting.

When I was going through the Holly Lisle ‘How to Revise Your Novel’ course last March, I got to the Monastery exercise where you leave a lot of the everyday world behind, and your last draft of your novel and your notes, and just sort of meditate your way to the perfect revision outline for the book. 😉 It’s a really great process, and one of the things Holly prescribed to leave behind was listening to music… with lyrics. She also seemed to be biased against a variety of instrumental music, and suggested leaving Classical Gas on an endless loop if you wanted any music in the monastery, but I couldn’t face any one tune that much, so I started putting together a list of all the instrumental music that I love. That was the moment my Monastery playlist was born.

The playlist was a great comfort to be on that first trip through the Monastery, both while I was actually working on my outline and as I walked the streets of my neighborhood trying to figure out what I wanted my book to be. I brought it back when I started Block Revision on “Won’t Somebody Think of the Children”, and gradually I’ve started to rely on it more and more whenever I have revision or editing to do. This particular collection of music just seems to be a really good fit with that task.

Some of the highlights of the playlist:

  • Mozart Concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra
  • The Firefly soundtrack and Serenity score
  • The Simpsons movie soundtrack
  • Any piano solo by John Sheard
  • Natalie McMaster on the fiddle
  • Selections from the ‘Pickin’ on’ Bluegrass series
  • “The Most Relaxing Classical Music in the Universe.” (I think the Serenians of Zeta Cygnus deserved to make the cut, but anyway… 😀 )
  • Bach Cello Suites by Yo-Yo Ma
  • A few orchestral versions of Madonna and REM songs

And on and on – there’s quite a bit of Leahy, some Rankin family, and a bunch of random instrumental tracks that just happened to turn up on albums that were otherwise conventional pop vocals.

I’ve become such a fan of my Monastery playlist that I even have versions of it on a couple of different devices to make sure that I can get at it when I need to. It started out on the iPhone, and is still there. Was on the desktop tower for a while, to sync with the iPhone, but the tower is with us no more. Sometime in the fall, I started copying the monastery music to an SD card that I could play in my Palm TX PDA, and then in December I loaded it onto my 1 gigabyte Sandisk Sansa player. (Well, as much of it as could fit. The entire playlist is around 1.2 gigs now.) And I’ve got it on the red netbook now too, in iTunes so that I can sync changes to the iPhone still.

Do you have any particular music that you like for a project or a specific stage of your writing?

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The Vinyl Cafe in Hamilton

December 20, 2012

My mother and I went to see Stuary McLean and the Vinyl Cafe Christmas Tour last night, which is something of a holiday tradition for us. It was a great evening – Reid Jamieson performed, as well as John Sheard, Dennis Pendrith, and a vocal trio dubbed “The Vinylettes”. Stuart retold the classic story about Dave building a snow machine, gave us two brand-new tales, (or at least ones that haven’t been featured on the radio show yet,) and was very funny organizing the prize giveaway just before intermission, with the help of a young child from one of the first two rows.

Stuart has an unfair reputation in some circles for telling long, pointless stories very slowly. Last night I think I really appreciated just how funny he can be, and how good his sense of comic timing is, especially when describing a scene where things are about to go very, very badly. Yes, he’ll dole out one sentence and pause, long enough to let us rev our imaginations into gear, and then drop another little tidbit. But it works. The heartwarming ending is also a big crowd-pleaser, of course.

One fun little moment involved what Stuart called ‘losing control of the show.’ The set-up began before the intermission, when Stuart said that he was giving out a prize for the oldest person in attendance. One lady called out 87, and before taking any other contenders he told the crowd that he wanted to talk with her a moment; Stuart asked her if she’d ever won anything before, she said no, (which could be a natural lie in the circumstances – you wouldn’t want to get passed over because you’ve won something before.)

‘Really, never won a thing in 87 years? I wonder how you get out of bed in the mornings.’ Paraphrased, but that was the sentiment, and we all laughed a little.

Then there was somebody else who won the prize for being 88, and Stuart gave the 87-year old lady his regrets. After the intermission, he checked with his young helper to make sure that everybody had got their prizes, and a sort of chant emerged from somewhere off to audience right. The people wanted the 87-year old woman to get a prize.

Stuart went along with it, making wisecracks the whole time. The woman got a Reid Jamieson CD, autographed by Stuart and each of the performers for the show, and also signed by the delivery kid. Somebody called out that it was his birthday at this point, and Stuart fished out one more prize CD, but drew the line at having anybody sign it. Enough was enough, at that point.

So it was a really fun evening, and definitely helped me get into the Christmas spirit. Less than a week left!


Insecure Writer’s support group – Writing in the Monastery

March 7, 2012

(Note, when I first posted this last night, I completely forgot that I’d meant to tie it into IWSG – so I’m making edits on Thursday morning

I have entered the monastery – and I came out on the other side to leave this post for you all. There’s no blogging from inside the Holly Lisle Monastery. (Which isn’t a real Monastery, just a state of mind for doing a particularly intense exercise in Lesson ten of the ‘How to Revise your Novel’ course.)

It was an interesting and cool experience. I dawdled a bit this evening – first, because you’re not supposed to listen to any music with words inside the Monastery, I spent time going through my itunes and coming up with an iPhone playlist of instrumental tracks – covering Bach cello by Yo-Yo Ma, Mozart piano sonatas, Serenity and Simpsons movie soundtracks, John Sheard and Natalie McMaster. Holly suggested just keeping ‘Classical Gas’ on single-track repeat, but I knew that sticking with any one song would drive me crazy.

Then I did a bit of review – going over my scene cards and every exercise that I’d done in the course so far, not trying to memorize anything so much as refresh my subconscious memory of anything that might be useful. That took about three quarters of an hour, and I put it all away and ventured into the Monastery at five minutes to eight, with my list of promises, my Alphasmart and a power cable for it, and the netbook a few feet away with the instructions and the Monastery progress thread on the Holly Lisle forums set up just in case – and a project tracker to count my Monastery time for NaNoEdMo.

And I started to write out scene sentences. And paragraphs, because I didn’t always get them down to single sentences, but I think I did a pretty good job of including the five elements of a good scene in most of them.

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