Music to build a world
by Ebony McKenna
Page 1 of 1Science fiction and fantasy writers all have different methods for creating
their worlds and people and getting them on paper, whether they set a special
time of the day to write or a set number of pages to fill. I try and be at my
desk by 8.30am (sometimes earlier) and I work until my brains turn to custard,
(usually lunch time), and all I need is my computer, a cup of earl grey tea and
Music evokes so many emotions and situations, from loving to fighting, that I
don't know where I'd be without it. Often after writing a chase scene, I'll
read it back with Basil Poledouris' The Hunt For Red October soundtrack
playing, just to see how the pace is working.
One of my all time favourite pieces of music is Bizet's Carmen, but it has to
be the Rodion Shchedrin arrangement. All percussion and strings - and no other
instruments. How did he do it? I can't even begin to imagine, but it works and
it makes me feel strange things. The result in my books can be anything from a
particularly raunchy love scene to a stand off, a battle scene or a betrayal,
skullduggery or paranoia. This arrangement was banned in Russia after only one
performance at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1967 - Shchedrin was accused of
"violating" Bizet's masterpiece by turning Carmen into a sex symbol. Obviously
the music was having too much of the desired effect on the powers that be, who
clamped down quickly. Maybe that's why I feel slightly naughty listening to it.
If I'm in a good mood, but the passage requires melancholy, out come the Paul
Kelly CDs. Paul Kelly is an incredible Australian artist, his songs are so
bitter and yet somehow reassuring. One comment attributed to listening to his
music is "like seeing ribbons on a barb wire fence". Listen to his music and
find something hidden in your soul, then set it free on the page.
And of course, what self respecting Antipodean writer could get by without at
least a couple of Crowded House CD's? Crowded House helped me overcome a
literary stumbling block - my writing seemed pedestrian (as one publisher who
rejected an early manuscript said). I needed to experiment more with words,
put them in places where they didn't belong and maybe even create new meanings.
Crowded House lyrics in isolation make no sense, and yet it all seems so
reasonable. Their music takes you to a strange place where you are utterly lost
and yet completely comfortable.
Their song that helps me find my centre is the aptly titled "Private Universe",
a chunky, dark, tribal piece that lifts me up and sends me spinning into space.
In my novel Gravity's Force, Kaeman's past continues to haunt him as he strives
to find sense in his changing world. In some ways, Private Universe is his
Music helps me create my characters and worlds, it makes me angry, joyful and
occasionally melancholy, and those emotions help my characters grow into real
people. Of course, you'll find your own rhythm from your own CD collection, and
you'll find your own worlds waiting for you when you play them. In the words of
Crowded House, "It's a pleasure that I have known, and it's treasure that I
Ebony McKenna is the author of Gravity's Force, available through http://www.red-e2.com. She lives in Melbourne,
Australia with her husband and two rabbits.
Her official website is http://www.ebonymckenna.com.
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Ebony McKenna, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.