A&E » Music

Under the (musical) influence

Three local writers explain how music has helped shape their writing



We all know how deeply music can affect our mood, whether it's a sappy song of heartbreak easing us through a breakup or a jubilant jam pumping us up for a summer road trip. But what impact does music have on writers as they toil away creating characters and piecing together prose?

The Pique put some questions about music and writing to authors participating in this year's installment of the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival to find out.

Stephen Vogler is the author of Only in Whistler: Tales of a Mountain Town, Top of the pass: Whistler and the Sea-to-Sky Country and Whistler Features. He has contributed to publications like Explore magazine; the Globe and Mail and several CBC radio shows.

Leslie Anthony most recently published The Body Birchback: Fragile Materials, Strong Bonds. He has written for magazines like Canadian Geographic and Powder, where he is managing editor.

Stella Harvey is director and founder of the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival. She recently published her first novel, Nicolai's Daughter.

Pique: How has music influenced your writing?

Stephen Vogler: I'm really interested in the intersection of different arts. Music and writing have informed my life for a long time. It's what I studied, and I often involve both of them in the projects that I do. At The Point Artist-Run Centre this summer I wrote a play that was performed on the floating stage on Alta Lake and included a swing jazz band. The main character was a trumpet player. In the Creative 5 Eclectic series I put on at Dusty's, I showcase many different artists from musicians, poets and writers to actors, comedians and others.

Leslie Anthony: I'm not really sure, but if there's a subconscious influence it is probably on the lyrical side, and entered my current work via earlier time spent on poetry and songwriting. 

Stella Harvey: I'm actually rather boring. I need complete and utter silence when I write. I think that is because I'm a naturally social and hyper person so I think when the world is quiet, I can allow myself to be quiet.

Pique: Do you write to music?

SV: I don't generally write to music, as I prefer to tune in to the music of the language. Occasionally though I'll jump up and play a tune on the guitar just to refresh the mind.

LA: I write to music every day in a coffee shop. Some of it is to my liking and some of it not so much. It's not my choice so I have no control; I just tune out the drek and groove on the good. A soundtrack obviously sticks to some degree, though: in one of my books I acknowledged The Shins and Wilco, who were playing in the coffee shop most days while I was writing it. At home I'd say I listen most often to classical or instrumentals like Ennio Morricone's The Mission while writing.