Writing Prompt:David Bowie and other miracles

The whole world is united in mourning for the death of a great and talented individual. David Bowie made it ok to be unusual. His art inspired people for decades and we’re all feeling the loss. I’ve been listening to his music and remembering where I was in different stages in my life when I heard his various songs of saw him in films. I thought of Labyrinth, The Hunger and The Prestige. All fun and all mainly because of him.

This prompt is not designed to specifically honour only David Bowie, but it is there for you to think about the various artists, actors and musicians that have inspired you throughout your life. For this prompt, think about someone who had provided inspiration and think about why. Did they make you change the way you think or write? Write everything you can remember about this person and write about what they have meant to you. Try to make it as personal as possible. Draw from specific memories about how they have made a difference.

I’m going to go write some more and listen to “Life on Mars”, which was not only a great song, but a cracking TV series as well.

RIP David.

Writing Prompt: Music and Lyrics

Sometimes I listen to random music and it takes me back to specific moments in my life. I can still remember my first single. “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol. I was playing tether ball in the play ground at school when someone mentioned him and I went off to find out who he was and what the fuss was about. I was always a little late to pick up new music and to keep up with the other kids.

The first tape my mother bought me was Madonna’s first album. I must have played “Borderline” a hundred times. The Cutting Crew came soon after. What was I thinking?

As the year have gone by there have been specific songs that have made an impact. My first gig in Los Angeles was Crowded House at the Wiltern Theater. I had a mad crush on Neil Finn.

My first real boyfriend gave me my first Cure album and introduced me to “A Night Like This”.

R.E.M. was frequently on my play list and drove my friends crazy. Not rock and roll enough.

Some songs just stick with me because they remind me of people, events or feelings.

“Don’t You Forget About Me” – Simple Minds reminds me of my brother.

“A Question of Time” – Depeche Mode is Paul, my friend’s older brother who was seven years older than me and sent me my first flower arrangement after we met at a party. We were both gutted when we discovered we were the wrong age for each other. Sure, seven years is no big deal when you’re adult, but when you’re 14, it’s not only devastating, it’s illegal. (no nothing happened). Of course, in one of life’s little ironies, we met again when I was 21 years old and he was married with a 2 year old…alas…

“Swollen” – Bent is my favourite song and seems to follow me around. If you want to get to me, tell me you like that song. We’ll be talking music all day.

“Black” – Pearl Jam is Jeff, a friend who died rock climbing with friends on the 4th of July 1994. He was just 24 years old and had just finished his training to become a paramedic. During he training, which often saw him up before dawn, he would often come over and sit in my kitchen where I made him coffee to get him ready for the day. On one occasion, he even visited me with his team and an ambulance to show me the life-saving gadgets within. I still have a made up medical report he did for me at the time. He once told me that the lyric “I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life…” in that song made him sad.

“Noah’s Dove” – 10,000 Maniacs reminds me of sitting in the car park at university waiting for class to start. A history lecturer came out to me from one of the classrooms to tell me that I had the music too loud in my car. Oops.

“Honey Honey” reminds me both of my mother because she was a big ABBA fan and because we used to dance around the livingroom to it and it reminds me of a drive home after helping a friend paint his flat. My arms were sore from the paint roller, I was covered with grey paint, making my dungarees unwearable for anything else and I felt like I was going to fall asleep at the wheel. As I put on some music to chum me home, that song came on. I can’t listen to it without thinking of how much fun we had getting the job done. I hear that song and think of him.

“Come As You Are” by Nirvana reminds me of the last glimpses I got of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city as I left San Francisco to move to London in 1997.  It was on the local radio station as I crossed the Bay Bridge.

“Sea Change” and “Long Distance” remind me the most fun I’ve had at a gig in a while.

I could go on and on, but the point is that music unlocks memories. Lyrics can say something in your head that you can’t express yourself.

Think about how music has influenced memories. We all have our own personal soundtrack. Think about yours and write about what music has meant to you.

Writing Prompt: Voice and Music

Have you ever thought about how everyone’s voice is unique, like a signature? Each voice also has a different effect on each person that hears it. What some people find attractive, others might find grating.

There are some people’s voices that are warm and familiar to me. Family generally feels soothing. My mother’s voice stirs a mixture of feelings in me. Sometimes it’s homesickness, other times it’s frustration. I love her accent, sweet and thick with the sounds of her native country. Strange to some, but to me, her voice sounds like home. I’m filled with the frustration that comes from wanting to hear it in person. I only hear it over the phone every couple of weeks. Sometimes I don’t call, not because I don’t want to catch up, but because it’s painful to be so far away. When she gives me news of home, of things that trouble her, I get angry that I can be there with her and I feel like she’s on the other side of a thick glass wall I can never penetrate.

I have a friend who can calm me down when I’m upset just by telling me it’s ok. His voice has a soothing effect on me and whenever I need to gain a bit of perspective, honesty and equilibrium, I’m straight on the phone. Works every time.

I’ve never been a fan of my own voice. It’s high, American accented, Californian with a touch of English and Scottish expression thrown in. There’s no trace of my Hispanic roots, not even when I speak Spanish. I’m teased for my accent by my family when I try to speak it.

There’s another friend of mine whose voice I love, but can never remember it. When I concentrate, I can’t hear anything in my head, I can see him in my thoughts, but there’s no sound until I see him and he speaks. Odd…

Finally, there are some people who make me feel like someone has stabbed me with an ice pick in the heart when they speak. They don’t even need to be speaking to me before I want to run for cover.  Do you think the measure of a person’s heart can be heard in their voice?

 Try this, think about someone’s voice. Try to remember its tone, expression, does it fill your heart with joy or panic? Now, describe it. Tone, accent, manner of speaking, give the characteristics as much life as possible. Draw comparisons to other sounds so that the reader can almost hear it through your words.

Music and Memory

When I was small I lived next door to my grandparents. My grandfather had an old, battered acoustic guitar. When I walked out from our kitchen door, I could cross the driveway and into their living-room within about a minute. I searched the house for him and usually found him in the garden watering plants or in his favourite reclining chair in the family room. Wherever he happened to be, upon seeing me he went to his bedroom and retrieved his guitar.  My favourite times where when he played Spanish folk-songs and pasa dobles. I must have made him play “La Paloma” a thousand times. When he sang these songs to me, I could picture his life on a ranch in Mexico before moving to the US sometime in the mid-sixties. My father used to tell me about the times grandpa would have the neighbours come around in the evening playing music late into the night on the ranch-house porch.

My last memory of him was the same as my first. I went to see him a couple of years ago,  just after his 97th birthday. I found him in his favourite chair, I found his guitar and handed it to him and he played “La Paloma” for me. Somehow I knew that would be the last time. He died later that year. I had a video camera with me, so I need to get up the nerve to find the tape and watch it.

This afternoon I was cleaning my office and found a photo of Grandpa holding his guitar. I looked down at my hands and realised my fingernails are a bit on the long side and it made me realise just how long it has been since I picked up my old, battered, second hand acoustic. The nails are getting clipped as soon as I’m done writing this, the guitar is coming out and I’m teaching myself “La Paloma” in memory of grandad.

For those of you know don’t know the song, here’s a link to YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLM5dNwxnHQ&feature=related

I’m off to go practice. Happy Sunday.

Writing Prompt: Dreaming in music

It’s the oddest thing. I wake up hearing music in my head every morning. This has been happening for a couple of weeks. Sometimes it’s “Destiny” by Zero 7, other times it the theme tune for the BA advert. I’m not dreaming scenes or people or events of the day in some twisted montage involving random, twisted, frightening things like circus clowns or hedgehogs having tea in my kitchen, just music.

I’ve decided to start keeping track of the music I hear to see if there’s any correlation between what I hear throughout the day and what I’m dreaming. The most disturbing one so far is “This Never Happened Before” by Paul McCartney. I can’t for the life of me account for that one. Ouch.

It did however get me thinking about music in general. What is it, I wonder, that determines what we listen to? How is musical taste developed?  My Dad was into Bob Dylan, Mom was into Abba. My brother got me into all things involving the Cure, New Order, Siouxie and the Banshees, Duran Duran and The Smiths. By university I was listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots. These days it’s Cut Chemist, Royksopp, Lyrics Born, Bent, Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx. (Having said that Jimi Hendrix has always been there and always will be).

Just for fun, think back to the different incarnations of your music tastes. What sort of memories do they bring up? Think back over your life and your own personal soundtrack. Pick a time in your life and draft a memoir involving music that meant something to you at that moment.

Writing Prompt: Dreaming in music

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