I recently talked to somebody about my musical experiences and then, presented as a completely different aspect of my life, discussed my relationship with Creative Writing. I realised something: I rarely write about music.
I am near the end of an Open University degree: ‘Humanities with Music and Creative Writing’. My two favourite subjects are sitting side by side, and yet even there they are separate.
It seems strange that music, which is a huge part of my life, should rarely make it into my writing. I love conducting, teaching music, playing trombone, music theory, singing, playing in band… I hear so many stories, witness so many hilarious events, and know that many of them would make a thrilling read! I just don’t often write them down, apart from in my journal, and occasionally in a Facebook status.
In 2015, my Creative Writing tutor asked me, ‘Do you write about your musical experiences?’ The questioned triggered a thought process: Why don’t I write about one of my favourite things? I love to listen to music as I write, but it is always the soundtrack and not the script; an influencer of my mood, but not the focus of my writing.
I decided I should try and change this, and by the end of the year I had written a novel that was set in a musical community. But I couldn’t seem to do justice to my musical life, or to the musical life of my fictional characters. I set the novel aside.
It made me realise that my resistance to writing about music was less about a lack of inclination, and more about the scale of the challenge. How can I express the power of music in written language? How do I communicate its importance in my life? Where do I even begin?
I’ve often attempted to describe the sensation that happens rarely in a band performance:
My fingers tingle. The slight tension and nerves we felt before begin to fly away, and the experience rises above the ordinary. It’s as if a sort of magical spell has taken hold, through which twenty-five individuals become a whole. My conscious mind lets go and the music becomes far more than the sum of its parts and far more than it’s ever been. The audience’s applause interrupts the spell, and yet somehow, even after we leave the stage, the elation lingers in my mind and body: a warm fuzziness; a connectedness between all the members of the band; a memory of that stage, from which we escaped to another world…
No, no, this description isn’t good enough. I could edit it for hours and I still wouldn’t be satisfied.
Music inspires me; it just doesn’t inspire me to write creatively about it. I can’t work out the extent of its meaning to me, let alone put it into words, and that is why I rarely try. I can easily express it through my trombone, though. I can express through my baton. I can express it in song. It is in these instances that I feel I can fully show its importance, and communicate the sheer delight of performance, even when words fail. Perhaps only music can do justice to music.