Before we begin, I want to put on my music professor cap and give everyone a little lesson in the basics of what we 'classically-trained' musicians call "serious music."
Yes, most of us are terrible snobs when it comes to musical terms. Forgive us. It comes from hours, and hours, and hours of practicing in tiny little window-less rooms with a slightly out-of-tune piano, ugly pegboard walls and even uglier tile floors. The pegboard is supposed to serve as sound-proofing. It doesn't work. Therefore, during those hours and hours while one of us is trying to sing Ombra mai fu by Handel,
the guy next to us is practicing a Phillip Glass concerto which sounds rather like someone is attacking a piano with an ax. [I once told this particular composer, to his face, that his compositions were "musical self-pleasure" (you figure out the correct term!) because it consisted of the same motion over and over again and the only person who got anything out of it was him. He was not amused.] Is it any wonder we are snobby, cranky lunatics? Where was I? Oh yes! The lesson!
The general public tends to call all "boring, long-haired music" Classical Music. Music is actually divided into eras according to the style and innovations of each era. The proper delineations are as follows :
Ancient music - the music generally before the year 476, the approximate time of the fall of the Roman Empire. Most of the extant music from this period is from ancient Greece.
Medieval, generally before 1450. Monophonic chant, also called plainsong or Gregorian Chant, was the dominant form until about 1100. Polyphonic (multi-voiced) music developed from monophonic chant throughout the late Middle Ages and into the Renaissance.
Renaissance, about 1450 - 1600, characterized by greater use of instrumentation, multiple melodic lines and by the use of the first bass instruments.
Baroque, about 1600 - 1750, characterized by the use of complex tonal, rather than modal, counterpoint, and growing popularity of keyboard music (harpsichord and pipe organ).
Classical, about 1750 - 1820, an important era which established many of the norms of composition, presentation and style. Also, the classical era is marked by the disappearance of the harpsichord and the clavichord in favour of the piano, which from then on would become the predominant instrument for keyboard performance and composition.
Romantic, 1820 - 1910, a period which codified practice, expanded the role of music in cultural life and created institutions for the teaching, performance and preservation of works of music. Characterized by increased attention to melody and rhythm, as well as expressive and emotional elements, paralleling romanticism in other art forms.
Impressionist music, 1910-1920, a period in which French composers as well as artists produced art that went against the traditional German ways of art and music. Characterized by arrhythmia, the pentatonic scale, long, flowing phrases and a use of brass instruments as the main parts in creating the texture, rather than stringed instruments.
Modern, 1905-1985, a period which represented a crisis in the values of classical music and its role within intellectual life, and the extension of theory and technique. Some theorists, such as Arnold Schoenberg in his essay "Brahms the Progressive," insist that Modernism represents a logical progression from 19th century trends in composition; others hold the opposing point of view, that Modernism represents the rejection or negation of the method of Classical composition.
20th century, usually used to describe the wide variety of post-Romantic styles composed through the year 1999, which includes late Romantic, Modern and Postmodern styles of composition.
The term contemporary music is sometimes used to describe music composed in the late 20th century through present day.
Why am I boring your ears off with this bit of music history? ZZZZZZZZ Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?
As writers we will try anything to help plant our butts in the chair and write. And for some, music really works. A few writers go as far as to create a soundtrack for their books in much the same fashion as they create a collage or storyboard. Movie soundtracks are a great source of inspiration for writers. Guess what? Most of those soundtracks are composed by people who are 'classically' trained. When you listen to the soundtracks of : (These are some of my favorites when it comes to writing inspiration!)
The Last of the Mohicans (Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman)
Gladiator (Hans Zimmer)
Anything (and I do mean ANYTHING) by John Williams
I am sure many of you have favorite Serious Music composers you listen to as well. This post is my effort to expand your horizons a bit. Here are some less well-known pieces and composers you might want to try.
Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber (Try writing a love scene to this. HOT!)
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Fantasia on Greensleeves by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Enigma Variations by Sir Edward Elgar
Symphony No. 5 by Dimitri Shostakovich (The last movement is heart-breaking.)
Slovak Suite by Vitezslav Novak
Adagio in G minor by Thomas Albinoni
Concerto in D Major for Lute and Orchestra by Antonio Vivaldi
Requiem by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
That's a good start. I could go on for days about this subject. (Too late, you say?) There is a wide world and centuries of music out there to inspire, to entertain, to teach, to soothe and lets face it, as writers, we could use one or all of those things - sometimes simultaneously. How about you? Are there any composers who inspire you? Any particular pieces? And does anyone know what the musical term is for a piece of music associated with a particular character i.e. Darth Vader's theme from Star Wars?