I use soundtracks as my background music as I write. Why? The emotional movements. The storytelling pieces. The Motifs. Why not? I also listen to classical music (not as distracting) as I write, but when I am searching for a particular mood, I put on a Movie/TV soundtrack.
There are a few drawbacks to listening to soundtracks. Sometimes, it can take you out of your writing headspace. (You want to stay there. Otherwise, your head might start to tell you, to check your e-mail, watch YouTube, do the dishes, mow the lawn or anything else it thinks you should be doing.) When you listen to soundtracks, it can become distracting when a particular piece of music begins to play. Iconic scores. Like Star Wars. And then your mind starts to think (instead of writing) “Hey, that’s from that scene in Empire where Luke searches for Vader and Vader just appears and starts throwing things at him, using only his mind. I love that scene. I should watch that…”
But, the absolute worst soundtrack moments are the ones that derail me completely from writing. The ones that make me emotional. The ones that stand out for their potency and nostalgia-like imprint on my brain.
So, without further ado, here are some soundtrack songs and moments that I cannot listen to while I write, as they completely destroy my ability to tell my own story, because I get caught up in the one they are telling and become an emotional wreck.
Did I mention I am a big, old, softy?
The Road to Perdition – “Road to Perdition” by Thomas Newman
Did I mention I love this movie? And for some reason every time I hear the main theme, I tear up like I just mowed the lawn in April (Allergy joke.) Thomas Newman creates a fantastic theme and score, which combined with how the movie ends, well, that’s just more than a man can take.
Lost – “Life and Death” by Michael Giacchino
Charlie and Claire. Claire and Charlie. Oh and a bunch of other characters I like.
Empire of the Sun – “Toy Planes, Home and Hearth” by John Williams
My favorite Spielberg movie. And one of John Williams greatest soundtracks. The ending of the film always gets me and this song is the catalyst.
Life is Beautiful – “Buon Giorno Principessa” by Nicola Piovani
This film is still one of my favorites and this song drags me out of my head and straight into the film. A glorious film about a boy telling the love story of his parents. I know the film gets some flack for its portrayal of the Holocaust, but I feel those that did, misunderstand the intention of the film. It is told from the POV of the child. I love it and I can discuss it for hours.
The Leftovers – “Departure (Home)” by Max Richter
Probably, my favorite TV show over the past five years and this song represents the show quite well. Beautiful and sad.
Battlestar Galactica – “A Good Lighter” by Bear McCreary
Another one of my favorite TV shows, and a song that makes me want to cry, right from the opening. A powerful show and a powerful song.
To Kill a Mockingbird – “Main Theme” by Elmer Bernstein
Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. I can’t.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – “Sacrifice” by Christophe Beck
Buffy has some amazing music. Seriously. There are about four or five songs that make me tear up. Including, “Remembering Jenny,” “Close Your Eyes” and “Every Girl a Slayer“. But, “Sacrifice” is the one that makes me stop in my tracks and think about the show. My favorite TV show.
The Fellowship of the Ring – “The Breaking of the Fellowship” by Howard Shore
Seriously, how can a man work on his story when the soundtrack to one of the greatest stories ever told is playing in the background? There hasn’t been a soundtrack like this since. The last of the great film soundtracks. It makes me sad. Just like the song. So good, so beautiful… so distracting.
As you can now see, like I said, I am a big softy. Tearing up at the drop of the hat, at some movie or TV soundtrack. Maybe it’s my advancing age and diminishing testosterone, who knows? Hell, I didn’t include any Star Wars, because I don’t listen to the Star Wars soundtrack as I write, the O.G. trilogy anyway, because I can picture in my mind every scene, based on the music alone. It is horribly distracting.
Speaking of distracting, I better get back to it.