Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Guest Blog: Gregory Galloway (As Simple As Snow)
Guest Review from Gregory Galloway
Author of As Simple as Snow
I’ve always needed noise to write. Like many writers, I worry about a blank page – where to begin – I worry about silence. Music actually helps me quiet those worries, organize the random thoughts and words in my head, and provides me with thoughts and ideas I didn’t have before. Sometimes it’s a contradiction to what I’m writing, other times it’s a direction, and there are times when it seems like a conversation or collaboration. Kerouac famously used jazz as a model for his writing; he wanted to recreate the rhythm and sensation of bop through language. I’m not that smart; I just want something that will help me put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, depending on my mood).
I listened to a lot of music while writing As Simple As Snow – lots and lots in order to create the 3 mix cds that appear in the novel – but always seem to come back to a few pieces that helped me sustain the atmosphere of the book and just get things down on the page. Big Star’s 3rd, Sparklehorse’s It’s a Wonderful Life, Tom Waits’ Alice, Everybody Digs Bill Evans, Wilco’s A Ghost is Born and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and just about all of Joe Henry’s cds seemed to find their way to the player over and over.
Why these? I have more than a thousand cds, so why are these the ones I return to as my writing soundtrack? Besides the fact that I think it’s amazing music, I think it also has something to do with the familiarity of the music and the fact that I continue to find something new in it. The familiarity allows me to not have to give the music my full attention (I’ve done that already when I wasn’t writing) and be aware of it without consciously listening. And when I do listen, I hear a phrase, a word, a note that inspires me or leads me somewhere. While most of it is background, both Alice and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot wound up referenced in As Simple As Snow. Sometimes background becomes foreground. The other thing is that most of these cds have accumulated associations with them, some of them very personal, so having the music playing while I write allows me to access those emotions, memories, ideas -- some of which I hope comes through the page.
I listen to music all the time -- more than I write, that’s for sure -- so I frequently find new things to lead me to writing. Lately, I’ve been returning to Matthew Ryan Vs. the Silver State and Liz Durrett’s Outside Our Gates, as well as her song “Far From Home” from the AthFest anthology, which has been playing on my iPod over and over. I’m amazed by this music, and jealous of its ability to communicate in a few minutes things I struggle with line after line after line. I have a lot to learn, and am reminded every time I open my ears. I’m listening, I’m still listening.