Friday, March 25, 2011

Words and Music

 In the book I just finished, a story tentatively called "Without Wings", the main character, Cass,  is a rock star who has, metaphorically speaking, lost her way. She's gone off to a small town to write a new album.

I always try to get inside my characters, to live inside their skins, see what they see, feel what they feel.  Cass, as I understood her, noticed the world through sound and music. I'm not certain that this is a unique "Cass" trait or more of my own trait (there are bits of me in all my characters, after all) but in writing Cass's story  I began to understand how important music has been to my writing. Music is where the writing began.

 I've always loved a good lyric and the musicians I love best have always been the ones with terrific lyrics- Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon, Harry Chapin and Billy Joel. I love old folk songs for the same reason. There's something haunting in a song like Three Ravens. I heard Peter Paul and Mary sing it when I was a kid. Years later, I learned it was from a poem dating back to the middle ages.
My love of words grew from these songs. They said something real to me, something that expressed what it meant to be a human being walking around on this blue planet.

I wanted to do that, too. I wanted to say something about my life, my feelings, maybe about life in a bigger way. It's how I came to write poetry. Out of poetry came a need to tell stories, longer more expansive versions of what I had been doing with poems. That love of words, of what they can do, of the power they can hold all began with lyrics.

For Cass, music and lyrics are at the very center of things, they are her heart and soul, her way of being in the world. I suppose that's why I created her. It's much the same for me.  

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