J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Playlists, podcasts and music from WQFS Greensboro's J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Notes From Underground - #30
On Writing

I want to talk about how I write. This is what came to mind as I was mulling topics. I've spent this column rehashing the sort of traditional pop music memes, and I wanted to reach out into something different. So I thought about how music affects the way I write - and in a more proto way, how it affects the way I learn.

I've always considered myself an auditory learner - I can sit back and listen and absorb a lot of information without having to see it in front of me or actively perform some sort of act. I also think in music quite a bit. Not sheet music, but I hum things, create songs in my head, sing small snippets, etc. This is all part of how I take in and process information - it's how my mind plays as well. Gardner would say that I'm an example of a verbal-linguistic and musical intelligence. I write a lot about music in addition to working with it. This word and music based learning style carries over to my day job where I constantly have to remind myself not to just lecture and discuss with my students. What would work best for me doesn't work best for all.

But then something weird happens. Let's look at my weekly album reviews. How do I create one? Typically I listen to the album at least two times through - sometimes in the same day, sometimes once the day before and again on the day of writing. In the 30 to 70 minutes before I begin writing, I often find myself sitting at my computer, reading through various favorite blogs and websites while listening to the album. The moment I begin writing, however, the music goes off. Now this doesn't mean I don't come back and re-listen to small bits in order to think of the right adjective or comparison. But if I'm typing, I'm not listening to music. Music, television, noises of any kind tend to distract me.

The key here is music with lyrics, though. I can listen to Brightblack Morning Light or Godspeed! You Black Emperor or Japancakes and be completely focused. Why? All their music is instrumental. And here, I suppose, it's a clash of words. If I have words running through my head (composing what I'm writing) and coming into my head (lyrical music), they conflict. Instrumental music, however, can actually help me write. Not if I'm writing about music, though. Then it just makes me forget my ideas about a band or an artist.

Gardner and his research into differing intelligences was an astounding way of re-examining our learning processes as humans. It's one of the main reasons why dyslexia, dysgraphia and other similar disorders are more frequently referred to as 'learning differences.' It isn't a disability - merely a different way in which the person's brain processes, stores, recalls or puts back out information. So, someone might balk at my methods of composing on here every week, but it's the way that I've found works best. Just like I'm sure there are musical writers who can knock out reviews while the album is on full-tilt in the background.

But what about you? How do you learn best? What things help or hinder your efforts to do work or create?



  • At 3:32 PM, January 28, 2008, Blogger Satisfied '75 said…

    great post. I too cannot really write while listening to music with lyrics -- I also cannot fall asleep to the stereo, as I pay too much attention to the music. Instrumental tunes aside.

  • At 10:59 PM, January 28, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I can't write to music with lyrics, but I can fall asleep to it... some people like "white noise" (fans and stuff) to go to sleep to, while I like colorful noise... indie rock!

  • At 2:07 AM, March 20, 2008, Blogger Doug said…

    I enjoyed the post so much that it (at least sort of) inspired me to write this post... which I did while listening to music (with lyrics--at least, the songs probably had lyrics. (I honestly don't recall, which is kind of what the post is about.)

    That you can write about music in a cogent manner is impressive for me. I have tried (back in my college days), and egad, was I not that great at it. It really is like dancing about architecture.


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