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Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Music Voodoo
Do you ever have flashes of the past that hit you when you least expect it, propelling you down memory lane?

It’s when you’re not thinking about anything in particular.
Maybe you're reviewing your grocery list or how you’re going to get two children to soccer games at either ends of the city. And they begin at the exact same time. And you only have one car. And you husband is out of town on business. Mundane, ordinary concerns and worries; enough to get yourself slightly stressed, but nothing earth shattering about them.

Then kablam! The memory smashes into you, bringing all your thoughts into line. And almost always one of your 5 senses triggers it; smell, sight, sound, touch, or taste.

It’s cool and weird and deja-vu like all at the same time. I had the writer's version happen to me a few days ago. At the hair salon.

As I sat uncomfortably at the sink, sure my entire spine was being dislocated, I tried hard to relax. I was thinking of absolutely nothing noteworthy beyond, “Why can’t they design a chair where my neck doesn’t feel like it will snap in 30 seconds?”

Only once I was left to “soak” and un-kink my body, realigning my vertebrae, did my thoughts begin to drift. Gradually I became aware of a melody lilting through the air. It sounded like New Wave 80’s music. A throwback to Modern English, The Smiths, and The Cure.

I focused more intently on the repeating words, “When I come home,” and shebam! A passage from my current novel played through my mind. It was as if I was watching a scene from a movie. Something about that song, the lyrics or the familiarity to the music from my teen years, that connected me to my young adult novel. It's a link I don't clearly understand.

Within 2 minutes of hearing a song from a band I'd never heard, the plot knot, that had stumped me for weeks, untied itself. All as I slumped in a chair, with my hair full of suds.

 So, what’s up with this music voodoo?

I’m not sure, but it’s certainly not an unusual occurrence for me. Often music will encourage my subconscious to figure out story problems, or inconsistencies in plot, or provide me with missing dialogue.

You must believe me when I say this isn’t as crazy as it may sound. Other authors admit they write to specific bands or styles of music. They do it to set the tone for their novel or get them into a particular frame of mind.

Who are these writers?
Of course, I can’t recall a single person. If only I had some tune that I could play that would ferret through the shadows of my memory and pluck a few names right now. That would be most useful, and possibly ironic, but like all sources of inspiration, it’s fleeting and works on its own time frame, not mine.
Has this music deja-vu happened to you?
Are there songs, when heard send you back in time, or for some unknown reason propel you somewhere completely unexpected or into the pages of your current manuscript?
And that magical song from the salon?
“When I Come Home,” by The Drums:


My favourite song from my youth,
"I Melt With You," by Modern English:


Happy listening.


  1. Hmmm. This doesn't happen to me. Maybe I should go to the salon more often and have my head hung at an obsure angle. :)