Have you ever wondered whether listening to music can improve your prose? It can. Certified Music Geek will explain how, using actual songs, by actual musicians, as his text. There will be a writing exercise, though it will not involve Steve doing his famous "Freebird" air guitar solo. (Unless the class begs).
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
What happens in Steve Almond's class...
The man. The legend.
... stays in Steve Almond's class. (Unless I tell you about it.)
Last night's Grub Street class was Crank the Tunes, Crank the Prose: Music as the Path to Literary Improvement.
There was music. (Not Freebird. Hey, does anyone else think instantly of The Devil's Rejects when they think of Freebird? No? Just me? Wait, you in the back, I saw you raise your hand. Genius movie ending, right? F---in' A.) And there was writing. And it was good.
Steve argued that music has the power to expand your empathetic imagination because music consistently seeks to evoke emotion in listeners in a way that not all literature seeks to do with readers... although perhaps it should. Musicians, he said, have permission to be overtly emotional, to honestly pursue feelings that are nearly unbearable. Writers do not always recognize that this same permission has been granted to them as well.
This does not mean cheap sentimental string-pulling. This means getting at the core truth of emotion. Truth lifts language into beauty and towards song. Not, Steve reminds us, the other way around. Crafting lyrical prose, in and of itself, does not bring you to truth. But if you can let music help guide you to a true and powerful emotion, then you can use that as the basis upon which you can craft something true of your own.
In some ways there was not much else that I can take from the class to pass on to you, because it's all about the music that moves you, personally. Or, about the specific ways in which the music moves you; we can listen to the same song and experience different emotions, retrieve different memories. So, Steve asked us to each think of a song that was specifically evocative to us, for whatever reason. We then wrote... not about the song itself, exactly, but about the song's place in our lives, about how it made us feel and why.
Not all writing need be cathartic... but sometimes it doesn't hurt.
Tell us in the comments which song you would pick. And, what kind of music do you usually listen to while writing, if any?
ETA: Check out the soundtrack to Steve's newest book. In particular, the song "Here Comes a Regular" by Dayna Kurtz. We did a freewriting exercise with that one playing in the background, and DAMN it's good.