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What Music Makes Your Writing Flow?

Usually, my writing-music is silence, or the buzz at a cafe. But these days, due to a foot injury, I’m off my feet, and find that music, played in the background, helps egg my dear old Muse on.I’ve tried all kinds, but the one above has been the most fruitful so far.

                             It is a 40-year old video by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, one of the stalwarts of Indian classical music, who passed on at the age of 88 last year. It may be alien and weird for ears unused to the genre, (and I myself understand none of the technicalities of Indian classical music), but I love the way how this guy’s vocal chords used to become a river of music—some of the twists and turns sound superhuman. The video lasts 6 minutes, during which I lay quiet, and then write till I have to stop and then I play it for another 6 minutes. That is the only way my monkey mind would focus on the job at hand these days.

                      Indian music has “ragas” which are associated with different times of the day, with forces of nature, or with seasons. Maybe, the productivity of my Muse has something to do with the fact that this raga, the Raga Malhar is associated with torrential rains.  I love this legend which I heard about Malhar as a child, and which I now copy from wiki:

According to a legend, once the Mughal emperor Akbar asked his court musician Tansen to sing Raga Deepak, the raga of fire. The effect was such that all the lamps in the courtyard lit up themselves, and Tansen’s body became so hot that he had to sit in the nearby river to cool himself. However, the river began to boil, and it became apparent that Tansen would soon boil to death. He set out on a search to find someone who could sing Raga Malhar to cure him. In due course he reached Vadnagar, in Gujarat, where he found two sisters, Tana and Riri, whom he asked for help. They agreed to sing Raga Malhar to cure him. When they sang the Raga, rains came down in torrents, which cooled Tansen’s body immediately.

Do  you listen to music when you write? If so, what music?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Jocelyn Rish says:

    I have to have silence to write. If it's music with words, I start singing along, so I tried movie scores, but then I end up lost in the music rather than my writing.

  • nutschell says:

    I love listening to classic, instrumental or orchestral music when I write. I especially love movie themes. 🙂

  • Lynn Proctor says:

    when i was younger, the music spurred me on–but now i prefer no noise whatsoever 🙂

  • Arlee Bird says:

    I would have to get used to this guy's vocals. I prefer just instrumental music. Haven't listened to ragas much in recent years, but I used to listen to Indian instrumental music often in my college years of the early 70s. I do enjoy watching the music production clips from Bollywood films, but I couldn't write to that type of music.

    I prefer western classical music like Schubert, Mozart, or Bruckner. It provides a soundtrack in my head that I can relegate to the back of my mind.

    Tossing It Out

  • shelly says:

    It depends on the mood I need to write. Right now, I'm listenting to Indian chants. In a few minutes, I may listen to The Beatles.


  • Jemi Fraser says:

    That's a very cool sound! I can see how it could work for writing!

    I'm on a jazz kick lately. I found out my TV has music channels in different styles. When the jazz is on the words fly and so does the time. 🙂

  • When I'm editing or revising, I need silence. But…when creating, I write to music. I usually like familiar and beautiful soundtrack music…and sometimes great classical – then again – Seal – lol! Love his music to write to!

  • Tonja says:

    I need silence to write. Although the buzz of people in a crowded restaurant or coffee shop seems to have the same effect.

  • D.G. Hudson says:

    For creating, no music, I work best without distractions, but for revising, I like instrumental jazz, or classical background music.

    Music is a strong force, I prefer listening to music over TV anytime.

    It's a subjective thing, probably harking back to an impressionable age — like the teens or twenties.

  • Mina Lobo says:

    I need my alternative rock and new wave music pumping (loudly!) to keep the juices flowing, for sure!
    Some Dark Romantic

  • I need music to set the mood. Most of it is progressive rock, which is intricate in its style. And full of energy!

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