Thursday, February 10, 2011

Guest Blogger: Stephen L. Brayton


William Congreve, in The mourning bride, 1697: “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.”

Stephen L. Brayton
 This oft misquoted phrase was brought to mind this morning when I accidentally put my radio away after setting out the morning breakfast at work. I like to write with low playing background music. I also will have music on the TV playing when I'm typing the longhand pages into the actual novel file.

There is a scene in my upcoming novel, Beta, where Mallory visits the home of the father of the kidnapped girl. She passes by the rock station in Des Moines and muses on music. Like Mallory, the music I listen to will depend on my mood.

If I want minimal distractions while typing, I'll have the classical music station on, or maybe soft jazz. Usually though, I'll have one of three stations tuned in. I'll start with Top Forty Hit List until some hip-hop or quasi rap song starts. I'm sorry, that is not music to me and I cannot function properly when it plays. Then I'll turn back to the Eighties channel, maybe the Seventies. At rare times I'll see what Soft Rock has to offer. At work, when I'm writing, I'll have on Classical-until NPR gets into it's morning drollness of news-or an Eighties station out of Des Moines.

I mentioned my dislike of Rap, but, ironically, the beat of the music was the only kind I could study to in college. My neighbors across the hall usually had a station out of Iowa City tuned in. It played a constant beat for about five minutes, then switched to another constant beat. The bass throbbing through the door kept my mind focused.

In my town, there is a souped-up Lincoln with Hot Wheels tires. I can tell the car is coming from half a mile away because it's playing some stupid piece of music at volume level twelve. In fact, I don't think the car actually uses gas; the pounding rhythm bounces the car along. But...I like to have the windows down and the volume up when a favorite rock song of mine plays, so I can't blame him too much. Well, I can, because I turn down my radio when the song is over.

Country is good, but I'd rather listen to songs from twenty to fifty years ago.

Hard rock doesn't impress me much; just a bunch of noise with no melody (maybe that’s just my age showing). There are a few 80’s bands I did enjoy, but I don't consider them really hard rock although others might.

I won't even touch opera so don't even try to persuade me to listen.

Big Band and Jazz are okay if it's the right artist and I'm in the right mood.

Sometimes, though, sitting by the river listening to the birds and the water is just perfect. To quote Redford from Jeremiah Johnson, “Nothing wrong with quiet.”

Stephen L. Brayton's website is and his new book, NIGHT SHADOWS will be released on February 15, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, Stephen.

    Personally, I can't listen to any type of music with words when I'm writing. The words distract me and I wind up singing along instead of writing!

    In fact, I usually prefer to write without any music or noise at all. This is especially terrific in the spring and summer when I leave the doors and windows open and the breezes and outdoor sounds play like soft, white background noises. Of course, I live in the mountains without being able to see my nearest neighbor, and my house is 1/4 mile from the road--which is unpaved and about 2 miles from the highway!

    On occasion, however, having Beethoven, Bach, or Tchaichovsky playing in the background seems to motivate.