Friday, October 15, 2010

Creative Cross-Fertilization

Recently, I attended a concert at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans, performed by the chamber orchestra I Musici de Montreal, founded and conducted by Yuli Turovsky. They played some Mozart to start, and then the work of a composer I’d never heard of before – Modest Moussorgsky, called Pictures at an Exhibition, but with a twist. The screen above the musicians, showed an animated version of the art of Viktor Hartmann, a friend of the composer. It was Hartmann’s art that inspired Moussorgsky to write the music he did.

In the performance I attended, the art and the music came together, with the art cleverly reinterpreted with surrealistic flow and movement (animated, if you like) by the composer’s daughter.

I love the idea of art inspiring music which in turn inspired the flowing animation of the art we saw, all of which inspired me to write this entry in this blog.

It reminded me that any form of art inspires and stirs creativity. That exposure to other artistic mediums can enrich, inform, and enhance our own.

For example, when I was writing my picture book story, Roses for Gita, (a sequel to my picture book Lights for Gita) a crucial, and I think magical, scene in the story fell into place during a Suzuki violin concert in which my daughter was playing. The inward expressions of the kids as they made beautiful music together made me suddenly realize that music is a language of its own, and that a difficult character in the story Roses for Gita, Mr. Flinch, might just be reached through music. I had an image of him, this grumpy, cantankerous old man, playing the violin, his face inward and absorbed with the music, caught in its delight.

That image sent a chill through me and I knew it was right for the book.

In my next post on Oct 22th, I'll suggest some ways in which you can use music to enhance your writing as well as find out more about your characters.


  1. Testing: I've heard that there are problems posting comments on my blog so this is a test to see

  2. Hi Rachna. I use music while drafting to get inside a narrator's head or stir in me the emotions of my character. Sometimes I get fixated on a single song because it captures the feeling I need; most often it has no direct connection to the work. (I don't question. It works. That's enough.) To stir ideas, I prefer reading and walking the dog. Like you, I walk while reviewing and editing. If I'm really stuck on something, I lift weights or do yardwork (and drop the dumbbell or rake as soon as a solution hits me). Hope this comment posts.

  3. That's so interesting, Catherine, and just what my next blog post is going to be about. Do you find, if you're writing a novel, that you listen to the same piece of music for the duration? And then, do you ever get to the point where you can't stand it anymore -- such as when you can't bear to work on the novel anymore? I love your idea of lifting weights, or doing yardwork, to get unstuck. Sounds like the more you're stuck the harder you need to physically move, in order to get the mind past that block?

  4. Yes, I was stuck on a single song through my first book's drafting and listened to it at every break. I didn't tire of it--but it's a short book and I draft furiously. This spring I stuck with a song for a few weeks, not through a whole draft but through the most confrontational scenes. (It's sorrow, betrayal and suffering I need musical support for. I don't listen to anything when I write humour.) I wish I knew more about mind/body connections--hard labour and "think-walks" clear away the clutter for me somehow.

  5. Catherine, it's painful, isn't it, writing about sorrow, betrayal and suffering. Did you feel grief-stricken as you were writing it? I wonder if you felt it more because you were also soaked in music that reflected that.