November 3, 2009

Music For Muse - Hans Werner Henze

In conversation with a professor several years ago, I found him difficult to believe when he said he wrote most of his work(s) with music playing in the background. Was that not a distraction? Quite the opposite, he had explained. It was muse and colour, texture and nuance. Music affected his writing in unexplainable ways. This said to a young protege who wrote most of his half-assed stories in complete silence.

Years later, as I gather my notes together to begin a large, hopefully successful project, the gravity of the discussion is not lost on me. Writing in silence is important. The mind needs to clear, to rid itself of the immense amount of bullshit it collects and filters and stores. This must be why the first hour or so of writing heaps up in the trash--that necessary, humbling process that finds its yield in the pages to follow. But silence, much like music, elicits a certain response--one that is not always what the author is looking for.

So, in part an experiment and in part a need to pursue a particular character to his true, basic depths, I have been playing music while I work. Not raging metal (God bless it) or even my usual fare of acoustic protest songs, but unusual compositions that wind and unwind, spread desolate and forlorn across the floor of my kitchen, and settle at my feet. Enter Hans Werner Henze, and his Guitar Music Volume 1 (samples).

Henze is an interesting chap--still alive, I believe. Of German descent, but now living in Italy as his politics and social viewpoints were not popular at the time of his post-WWII departure (1953), he is a man at odds. His upbringing also carries complex variables (check the link above to find out). In return, at least to my limited perception, his music reflects the same complexity: madness, apathy (atonal), longing...and on. Things I also equate with some of Benjamin Britten's work. But I'm a hack when it comes to music, so what the hell do I know?

What I know is whenever I'm working or thinking of the main character in my next project, I find Henze to be his soundtrack--at least the Guitar Music CD of his I have. And I fondly think of my conversations with that old professor, whose wisdom chastises me to this day, a gentle but relentless pressure to progress.

Such is the artifice of art? One cannot escape their life's influences through the process of creation. But one can draw from the bones of another's skeleton and, in mimicry, fashion themselves fiction.


Sam said...

Great post, Harry. Henze sounds cool. Can you send me an mp3?

I find that the lyrics are what distracts me. I have multiple versions of the Beethoven string quartets, Holst's The Planets, some Shostakovich, Peter Gabriel's Passion, and Jonny Greenwood's soundtrack for There Will Be Blood. There's TONS of free classical on iTunes, just check out the Columbia University Orchestra.

Was the professor RL?

Harry Tournemille said...

Thanks, Sam. One of the links in the post gets you to some samples. The tenor singing around track 4 is my good friend Colin Balzer. He's pretty badass.

I love Johnny Greenwood's music for TWBB. Not sure why I don't have it.

I've had trouble with lyrics too, when writing. But that usually goes with more contemporary stuff...rock and so forth.

The prof was PF.