Monday, September 05, 2005

Music: Dive! Dive!

To mark Labor Day, I want to talk a little about work. Or what passes for it around Chez K, at any rate.

I don’t always listen to music while I’m writing, but at times it’s essential. Like when I need to drown out the sounds of the neighborhood, especially when the school down the street is in session. Those double Dutch tournaments can be brutal.

Occasionally, the accompaniment is related to what I’m working on. A few years ago I was hired to write an original screenplay based on the true story of a local criminal. The first thing I wanted to know was what kind of music he listened to. You know, to “get into the character.” Seemed like a writerly thing to do.

‘70s stuff, I was told. Southern rock. Specifically, the Marshall Tucker Band.

Well, that wouldn’t do.

It didn’t fit my conception of the man. There was a definite counterculture vibe to his life, including a pronounced tendency toward mythopoetic horseshit. Answer: the Moody Blues.

While writing the script, I listened to their album A Question of Balance. Over and over. It completely obliterated whatever affection Rosemarie had toward Justin Hayward and his rendition of 'Forever Autumn' on the WAR OF THE WORLDS concept album. I finished the final draft and haven’t played the record since. Although some of the more pretentious lines still come to me unbidden. “He took to himself an orange ...

For inspiration, nothing beats movie soundtracks. Big music that encourages visual thinking. From Harlan Ellison, I cribbed the notion of listening to the great Ennio Morricone while writing. Danny Elfman also serves quite nicely.

Submarine movies often feature memorable music. I leave on the beginning of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and the end of CRIMSON TIDE whenever I come across them on cable so I can admire the work of composers Basil Poledouris and Hans Zimmer, respectively. Male choral singing gets me every time.

Rosemarie, of course, noticed this habit. To mark some recent success, she bought me the soundtracks as a gift. Then she went one better and threw in THE BEST OF THE RED ARMY CHOIR.

It’s great, stirring stuff that’s powering me through a new project. Plus there’s the perverse satisfaction of writing what could be a big Hollywood blockbuster – the very essence of American capitalism – to the strains of ‘Slavery and Suffering’ and ‘The Red Army Is The Strongest.’