Since high school, I’ve had a deep fascination with film music. In fact, I didn’t listen to popular music until I entered college and roomed with someone who had good taste in music—The Cure, Bjork, etc. Even though my taste in music has broadened to just about everything from Lady GaGa to Eric Satie, I still return to film—and now television scores—to find inspiration, particularly as I write. But why?
I recently finished my friend Marisha Chamberlain’s novel, The Rose Variations (www.marishachamberlain.com), which in both subtle and overt ways, derives inspiration from classical music . Other great works, such as Bel Canto by Ann Patchett and “The Dead” by James Joyce, have been influenced by music, not only in terms of subject and theme, but also structure. No art form is an island, so to speak. All forms must be in dialogue with one another to keep new work fresh and exciting. At least that’s what I believe. However, that’s not why I listen to film scores.
I come from a bloodline of fairly stern, serious, reasonable individuals. In my family, the sciences—whether of the natural world or of business—have always been considered of primary importance. Both my brothers, my father, and my mother’s father are and were great businessmen. Emotions were thought to be detractors and best kept under control. I’m not an “emotional” person. I don’t often emote in front of others. Whether a gift or not, my inheritance is that I have a good degree of control over my emotional expression.
So, what does this have to do with film scores? Film music, when it’s at its best, is created to echo the internal life of the characters in a movie or television show. For me, this same music serves as a bridge to my own emotions, a way to break through the control and find food for my creativity. So, as I write or read, I often listen to scores, allowing them to take me safely across the threshold of reason and control and into the rich, chaotic emotional life beyond.
On my website (www.jcopenhaver.com), I’ve attached a mix of music that inspired me while I wrote Dodging and Burning, which can be accessed at the bottom of the home page.