I’ve done a lot of writing this year and only some of it on here and whilst at home. Much more often my writing gets done in and around the University of Liverpool in libraries and some other writing spaces I’ve found (finding that I do my best writing if I move around now and then).
And when I get sat down in one of my writing places I’ll usually listen to music. Familiar music that can be just there in my headphones, helping me create my own sense of place wherever I am. Music to write by.
Some of this music has words. Soul, country, blues and deep south sounds for ‘organising things’ sorts of writing. Fixing things up, replying to messages, sorting calendars and places to meet. But when my writing goes deeper and I need a different level of concentration, then the words mostly leave and the music becomes classical, soundtrack and bits of jazz. Particularly the music of a playlist I’ve been assembling since late last year. Music that’s now helped me write the best part of twenty academic essays as well as get me seriously going on what’s likely to turn into my PhD.
I play it in the order I’ve put it together. So ‘Quiet City’ By Aaron Copland is the sound of me organising my stuff now. Opening my laptop and the Scrivener folder of whatever I want to work on. Checking where I’m up to, if there are any pdf’s still to be read before I can begin writing, anything unknown that needs finding out now. Then I start.
And the shifting music keeps me moving, stops me being distracted, comforts and encourages me and sometimes, when it’s needed, gets me to sit back and only listen. Only listen to the beauty of the music for a few minutes. Then, having paused, move on again. As often as not in a new direction and with a new thought that’s just occurred to me through the music. The music I write by.
Time, work, thought and writing then happen.
And should I find I’ve got to the end of the playlist, currently the 29 tracks you can see in the pictures here, and I’m still sat in the place where I first sat down, then I’ll know it’s time to move on.
Time to pack up, go somewhere else, get my stuff out again – laptop, power lead, glasses, headphones – and begin again. Start the music again.
And I’m not going to write about the music itself here. You can see what it is from the lists if you want to go and listen to any of it for yourself. But I do want to give out some credits to the people who helped me find most of it, all of them part of BBC Radio 3:
Sarah Walker and her producer Martin Pyne for much of the feel of the playlist, their steady championing of female composers and even the collages they make to promote each Sunday morning’s programme, an idea flagrantly copied here by me.
Petroc Trelawny for so many early mornings, including a recent week from all the way along the River Severn. Public service broadcasting as high art.
Elizabeth Alker for late night inspirations and enthusiasm from Salford.
And all the people from Andrew McGregor’s Record Review each Saturday mornings, who’ve contributed so much to my education by patiently taking me through so many versions of so much that’s now on this playlist.BBC Radio 3
I haven’t officially cited you in any of my academic work, but you’re all cited now. I couldn’t have written it without you.
Music to write by, it’s how I work. Surrounded by all this beauty.
And so’s you know, I have of course listened to the playlist as I did this writing, typed it out, made the collages and got it ready to publish. All of which took me up to track 15, Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Music. It gets stuff done, this music.
More of my university writing here at Fieldnotes for Utopia.