I’m currently working on a nasty horror short story for my friend Jarret Keene’s upcoming anthology of Las Vegas horror stories. When I write, I listen to music; generally instrumental stuff. When I’m doing horror, I tend to listen to a lot of post-rock stuff like Mogwai (the track “Auto Rock” being a favorite), as well as hauntological electronic like Burial, and random film soundtracks, my favorite being Cliff Martinez’s score for Solaris and Clint Mansell’s Requiem For A Dream, as well as Lisa Gerrard and Peter Bourke’s lovely score for The Insider.
However, I find that I run into a problem: the music runs out or changes moods long before I want it to. It might take me three hours to write a scene, and unless I’m looping a single track or album again and again (which, in and of itself, is tiresome) I’m going to lose the feeling of the music long before I’m done writing.
Yesterday, I hit upon a novel solution: I fired up Ableton Live and used some of my techniques for generating algorithmic music to create an evolving, unending “soundtrack” to listen to while writing a scene. It took me about ten minutes to throw together an appropriate set of sounds, rhythms, loops and harmonies…and I left it running for the three hours it took to write the climactic scene of my short story. (When I popped over to it and closed it, it was running to something like 1300 measures.)
It worked perfectly! One long song, with enough variation not to sound like a loop, maintaining the creepy feeling I wanted while I wrote this horrible scene. (It involves a drugged Russian prostitute and a Lovecraftian beastie.) I think I’ll try it for all of my writing projects from here on out.
If you’re curious, here’s a 32-measure sample of the music.