Encore: on music and writing again

I have already written about the way in which some pieces of 18th and 19th century music inspired a handful of scenes in each of the three books in the Herzberg trilogy.

As a general rule I do not write to music playing in the background, much preferring to write in silence. The room in Norfolk where I do so overlooks a garden which greatly extends the quiet space in which I can let my imagination loose – a larger stage for characters to come to life whether during the day or in the evening.

Sometimes however I find it helpful before I begin writing to listen to a piece of music to help me let go of other preoccupations of the day. I choose at random from several favourite pieces. These include:

  • Jean-Philippe Rameau: Symphonie Imaginaire: a selection of Rameau’s best music assembled all in one work by the French baroque specialist Marc Minkowski and played under his baton by Les Musiciens du Louvre; or
  • Mozart: the aria Soave sia il Vento from his opera Cosi fan Tutte. In the trio two young women say farewell to their lovers who are about to deceive them cruelly revealing in turn the women’s own weaknesses. It is sublime piece of music accompanied by a superb libretto “On your voyage may the winds be gentle; may the waves be calm; may all the elements respond to your desires….”. What better words to hear at the start of a journey of imagination; or
  • Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere, a setting of transcendent beauty of Psalm 51 and once one of the Vatican’s most closely guarded secrets which anyone found attempting to copy it was threatened with excommunication. But then Mozart came along and wrote out the whole piece from memory. The rest is history.