Musical coincidences & the Magic U soundtrack

I often listen to music while I write (and do other kinds of work). I feel it keeps my brain stimulated in some way that silence doesn’t. In the olden days I used to put 6 CDs of varying genres into my CD changer and hit “random” and picking 6 CDs that went well together, yet weren’t too similar to each other, was a kind of art form.
More recently I’ve gotten lazy and have been using XM Radio or instead. (I tried Pandora but the ads killed me.) As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered I don’t write as well to music with lyrics in English, so I mostly listen to instrumental, “new age,” soundtracks, classical, and “world music.”
The fun thing about XM Radio (mostly the “Spa” channel 72) and is I discover new things I didn’t know about. And sometimes they hit upon a song that fits a mood or scene perfectly.
When I was writing the tragic scene on the staircase in The Tower and the Tears (Magic U book 2), a heartbreaking song was playing, but I wasn’t able to note down what it was. (The XM unit is on the first floor, my office is on the third floor, and I wasn’t about to interrupt writing a crucial scene just to go down and find out what the song was.) It was such a searing, haunting song, though, that it’s been playing in my head ever since.
Today I finally found out what it was! “Song of the Siren” by Jennifer Cutting’s Ocean Orchestra. First off I thought, Siren? No way… since of course book 1 is The Siren and the Sword. Then I saw the way I had Googled it was to find a Youtube video… which turns out to have been filmed by a Harvard alum filmmaker at the Longfellow (Kyle’s ancestor) historic site, which is just a few blocks from here, bordering the campus!
So anyway, here’s the video and the song:

I just purchased the song for 99 cents from iTunes, too. Since what I often do now instead of filling up the CD changer, is make an iTunes library of soundtrack songs for different books & projects. (The library for Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is drastically different from the Magic U one… not a single crossover.)
Some other songs that have made it into the top soundtrack songs for Magic U writing, there’s one I think of as Kyle & Frost’s theme. It’s very quiet and contemplative, Patrick O’Hearn’s “Our Temperable Host.” O’Hearn himself uploaded it to Youtube with photos by a friend of his, so here it is:

I bought not just this song but one of O’Hearn’s albums (funnily enough, a different album from the one that contains this song) that is in the soundtrack for me now. “Our Temperable Host” is from the album Glaciation, but I ended up buying Beautiful World instead.
Then there’s the song that pretty much externalizes all the pain and angst and confusion inside Frost’s head. I only re-discovered this recently. One of my favorite albums when I was a young, budding electronic music enthusiast in the 1980s (back when FM synthesis was new and the Roland DX-7 was all the rage) was Wendy Carlos’s original Clockwork Orange soundtrack. I had heard variously over the years that the bits and pieces used on the soundtrack of the film were fragments of what she had intended as a larger work. At some point I bought a CD of her “Tales of Heaven and Hell” which was touted to be the complete and definitive version. The CD arrived from and somehow was promptly lost in my office for the next five years.
Well, I just found it last week, and put it into the CD player… and got goosebumps. “Clockwork Black” is a disturbing piece of music — it’s probably the musical equivalent of a Hieronymous Bosch painting of hell. The parts of the original soundtrack that have survived into the finished piece also twist me right back to my college days when I was Frost’s age.
Here’s one of the original pieces:

I couldn’t find an online place to link you to Clockwork Black, but imagine this done by a demon orchestra from hell, overlaid with the recurring sound of a woman sobbing uncontrollably (an aural motif in the song), and you’ll have an idea what it’s like in Frost’s head. Nightmarish.
And how’s this for another coincidence, Wendy Carlos was previously Walter Carlos. I had *forgotten* that part. (Aha, and I see on the CD case itself, a painting by Bosch. Maybe I really don’t write the stuff. Maybe I just channel it.)
The final old thing I used to listen to a ton, but which I lost the CD of about ten years ago, is Peter Gabriel’s Passion. But while writing some of the scenes in book four, I kept *hearing* it in my head. Just snatches of it. This is literally a CD I listened to so much when it first came out that I had to buy a second copy because the first one wore out. I know, CDs don’t wear out. Except they do.
Then it went missing and I forgot about it until now. I decided to do the yuppie instant gratification thing and just buy it from iTunes to listen to instantly. Not sorry I did. I’d forgotten so much of it, but it comes right back. I am sure it resurfaced in my head because I was Kyle and Frost’s age when it was burned into my brain.
Here’s a song from it in case you don’t remember it:

One more, more ambient:

So that’s what’s been going through my head as I write book 4 of Magic University, which still has no title. I think I just wrote the climactic, halfway point turning point scene last night, and part of me is saying no no no, it can’t possibly be half over yet! There’s still so much to do! So who knows, maybe it’s a false alarm and there’s still another 70,000 words to go really…. I just have to plow through and find out what’s ahead.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *