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  • Herman P. Hunter

Music Muse

Music has a massive influence on my writing. When I go to write, it involves headphones and a playlist specifically tailored for the piece I'm working on that day. I'll take songs that embody a mood or feeling in my head, and I'll put them on repeat. It's almost like trying to squeeze those very last drops of juice from the orange, making sure nothing is left in the spent fruit.


Or, I'll kickoff a specific playlist for what I need to get accomplished. However, it isn't just any music I put on. The music is just as important as the words I type. Sometimes even more important.


Who is it that fills my ears? Well...


Glass Hammer

Of all of the music I consume in my writing, Glass Hammer is probably at the top of the list.


I stumbled across Glass Hammer about a decade ago, when I was looking to find newer music that satisfies my Art / Progressive Rock tastes. At the time I discovered them, they had a sound and style that was very reminiscent of both Yes and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. But to call them a clone of these bands is to do them a major injustice, for they are so much more.


I was lucky enough to get a used copy of The Middle Earth Album from Glass Hammer for Christmas last year, and it goes into my main writing playlist. The other works I listen to regularly while I write are: Chronometree, Chronomonaut, Dreaming City, and The Inconsolable Secret. These albums act as my all-around, High Fantasy inspiration.


Mastodon

I've only recently become a Mastodon fan. I used a select playlist of their music as I was laying down the roughs of a short story whose working title is "The Hunter."Mastodon is an aggressive heavy metal outfit that blends in progressive elements, and bits and dabs of psychedelia here and there. Their albums The Hunter, Crack the Skye, and Emperor of Sand have been very influential in setting the appropriate tone for a semi-Lovecraftian tale.


Sorry that I could not include some of their music as an example. The policy of the official Mastodon channel on YouTube is that they don't allow their videos shared with other websites. You'll just have to go look them up.


Opeth

If there is one group that is gaining prominence in my vast music library, it's Opeth. Once a Death Metal outfit, the main songwriter - Mikael Åkerfeldt - has slowly moved the band away from the dark, heavy music of their original genre, and towards a more progressive sound. Blending heavy metal, Nordic folk music, odd time signatures, and minor scale progressions, Opeth weaves a tapestry of music that can be dark, dream-like, somber and yet still beautiful.


I always put on Opeth when I need to write sad passages, conflict, or have to delve into the darker places of my literary world.



I've been bringing in more of Opeth's more recent work for my needs: Pale Communion, Ghost Reveries, Heritage, Watershed, Sorceress, and In Cauda Veneum.


Yes, Kansas

When I was first writing the Frankie Falawell books, I digested a healthy portion of Yes and Kansas.





I'm a huge fan of both bands, even to the present day. Their music is reminiscent of my youth - a lonely young man upstairs with his Dungeons and Dragons books, ignoring his homework, and escaping the angst and awkwardness of my early teen years my hiding in a fantasy world of my own making.


It was probably the first Yes album I ever owned - Classic Yes - that introduced me to Progressive / Art Rock. I got the album one year for Christmas, mainly because it had the song "Roundabout" on it. Yet, it was the song "Heart of the Sunrise" that really opened my mind to what music could be, and where it could take me.After that, I was hooked.


My older brother inadvertently introduced me to Kansas. The first album of theirs I heard was when he brought home Leftoverture one day, and spun it up on the stereo turntable. What I heard was something that I could only describe as J. S. Bach picking up a Gibson Les Paul, running it into a high-gain Marshall stack, and playing his version of Marshall Tucker cover tunes. After all, what group uses a violin for rock music? Well, Kansas for one. And it works.


When it came to Yes, the albums that inspired me the most were Magnification, Close to the Edge, Fragile, Going for the One (two key songs here: "Wonderous Stories" and "Awaken"), Keystudio (specifically the song "Minddrive"), Tales from Topographic Oceans, Relayer - just about their whole catalog in one form or another.


For Kansas, it was the classic lineup and their albums. This means Masque, Leftoverture, Point of Know Return, Song for America, Monolith, and Audio-Visions. Later albums included, Freaks of Nature, Always Never the Same, and Somewhere to Elsewhere (especially the song "Byzantium").


Other Influences

Two other groups come to mind when I think of writing music, and they are related. Kino and Frost* have John Mitchell on guitar. The music of both is a sort of pop-progressive kind of rock that I'll listen to from time-to-time.


Sometimes I throw in a little Genesis, though I haven't listened to them much these days. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (ELP) was also another early source of writing inspiration, as well as the early records of Electric Light Orchestra (No Answer, ELO II, On the Third Day, Eldorado, and Face the Music). I also listened to a couple of songs from a group called Incubus for very specific passages (the song "Dig" being one of them). But that's about it.


Conclusion

So now you know.


Music plays a huge part in my writing (I think I've said that before), and what I listen to often directly correlates what hits the page. Different chapters often get influenced by different types of music, and now that you know, you can probably see what I was listening to when I was writing a passage or a paragraph.

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