Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Music For Writers #10: Rosanne Rabinowitz

So, this is the final Music For Writers blog post - unless you all cheer so much that there's an encore. And what better way to end the set than with choices from a writer as good as Rosanne Rabinowitz? I was lucky enough to appear alongside Rosanne in the anthology The Outsiders and I can highly recommend her story there, as well as the novella Helen's Story (a retelling of a certain Weird classic) and pretty much everything else I've read of hers.

So, one more time. Take it away, Rosanne:

Many of my stories get their titles from songs, contain scenes at gigs or raves or have a significant soundtrack running through the background or even the foreground. So when James announced this series, I jumped at the chance. 

And now, many weeks later... I've just about finished dithering with my selection of six songs. It’s been tough to narrow it down. My writing music varies according to the piece I'm working on and the mood I want to express. If a story has a particular setting or historical period, I might go for music from that era or place. Or maybe not. I've listened to screaming punk classics while writing about head-banging medieval heretics. 

However, there is a common denominator to anything I listen to while writing. I look for music that helps me access emotions and images; a soundtrack that evokes the characters and worlds I seek to create. 

Some people find lyrics distracting while others find them inspiring. I've discovered a point between these poles – listening to music in another language. There's nothing like a human voice to express and provoke the feelings I want to portray in my fiction, but the language difference leaves blanks for filling in. Which brings us to Catherine Ribeiro...

Cette VoixCatherine Ribeiro
I took French in school, but my grasp of the language is bad enough to leave much to the imagination. When I was in Europe for the first time in 1977, a friend in Paris played this for me. I hadn't thought about Catherine Ribeiro (and I almost forgot her name as well) for years, then a month ago I was just wondering: 'so what was that music I heard in my first visit to Paris?' YouTube provided the answer. Her songs are passionate, kind of Piaf-like, but her voice comes across deeper and much more forceful. 

Here's some information about Ribeiro in case you're interested:

Wall of Shame – Screaming Blue Messiahs
Here’s another rediscovery, a song from the 1990s that has suddenly captured my imagination. I put it on frequently. It evokes lonely landscapes, distance, dysfunction and desire for some kind of redemption. It also brings to mind Trump's wall even though this song is almost 30 years old. 

Thesaurus Tuus – Daniel Hart (from A Ghost Story)
A Ghost Story was a powerful, strange and amazing film. I was expecting a post-mortem romance like Truly, Madly, Deeply but found something much more mind-expanding. The film moved from ghostly grief and romantic angst to real cosmic universe-time-and-spacey angst, desolation and yearning. This music expressed that mood perfectly as cities rose and fell on-screen.  

Nostalgia – Buzzcocks
"About the future I only can reminisce... I'm surfing on a wave of nostalgia for an age yet to come." For me this has always been a poignant song of paradox, time and undefined yearning  – central themes to my favourite fiction. I wasn't sure whether to play the Buzzcocks version or Penetration's cover. And you know what? As a hopeless and indecisive music geek, I insist on playing both! 

Scarlet Town – Gillian Welch
Gothic and weird folk/country has provided a soundtrack to much of my recent writing. In this vein, I'll end with a song that directly inspired the story I contributed to an Egaeus Press anthology, Murder Ballads. Gillian Welch's song made me see a dusty town hidden in the hills: a place of beauty and vibrant colour as well as chilling horror. But I think there might be many more stories in the making about where Scarlet Town could be and what happens there. 

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