Music and Dreams


Tower House in London. Home to Jimmy Page, another fine musician…

Music is in my family.

My grandmother was a wonderful singer, my brother is a professional musician, and my cousin works in music management. Music has been around me since I can remember, dancing to Leo Sayer and Queen on my dad’s stereo, lying awake on warm nights listening to ELO and the Moody Blues drift upstairs to my childhood room, sweet melodies in the golden darkness. Later I formed my own tastes, posters on my walls, teenage screams at concerts past, Walkman almost permanently on. I was even, and this is the absolute truth, at the concert where Duran Duran filmed ‘The Reflex’ video. I still remember Simon LeBon announcing ‘We’re going to make a video’ and the whole place losing its collective mind, myself included.

I like a fairly broad range of music and still love going to live shows – the last one I went to, and enjoyed immensely, was the Ginger Wildheart 50th Birthday Bash. We took our daughter to her first live concert when she was five. It was Slash, and she got to go backstage and then onstage (courtesy of her uncle playing in the opening band). She and I danced together as Slash played his iconic guitar riff from ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’ just metres away from us, my own sweet child clinging to me. That was an experience that will always stay with me, one perfect moment in time.

There is a piece of music I particularly love to listen to while I’m writing. In fact, I’m listening to it now. Sure, I usually have Itunes on in the background, often on shuffle. But sometimes I play this piece, over and over, on repeat. It’s the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony – if you’ve seen The King’s Speech (and if you haven’t, you should – it’s an amazing film) you’ll recognise it as the music playing while the King reads his famous speech.

They say that in times past, classical composers were the rock stars of their day. And this piece of music makes me imagine how it would have been, sitting in a darkened theatre centuries ago. The gleam of silk and jewels, gold trim on the boxes, candle wax scent in the perfumed air. Or perhaps listening to it played in a private salon, the home of someone wealthy enough to command a performance for friends. It is music to dream to, bittersweet longing woven into the notes.

That’s my interpretation, of course. And that’s the great thing about music. There are some bands and genres that I’m never going to like, whereas other people might look at my own musical tastes and shake their heads. But while it appeals to each of us in a different way, music is something common to the human experience as a whole. Its origins lie somewhere entwined with our own, an ever-changing soundtrack to our history.

Great music moves us – to dance, to scream, to tears. So what moves you? What songs form the soundtrack to your own life?

6 thoughts on “Music and Dreams

  1. I like a mixture of music too, mostly pop and ballads, playing all the time. I have always made compilation cassette tapes and still play one of them in the car (yeah, it’s an old car with a cassette player still) over and over. The cassette must be 15 years old. My eldest son has made similar CDs for me as I haven’t managed to work out downloading. I give him a list! I prefer my tunes playing from a good hifi system with proper speakers. Most music sounds good on a decent sound system. It is also a good excuse to sing. I’m sure that’s good for your soul. Familiar tunes are like a comfort blanket but I am open to new stuff too.

    I am not a great fan of classical music but I know exactly the Beethoven music you mean, gives me goosebumps. I try and hum the different rounds over the following rounds of its repeating theme. Love it. Did you know that it’s a funeral march? I loved how they used it in the King’s Speech.

    • Oh, I remember the compilation tapes – I used to spend hours making them! I did do CD’s as well until recently – probably time to do another one, to be honest 🙂 Oh, and singing is so good for the soul, dancing too – I might even admit that I do a bit of both at times when I’m writing.
      And I didn’t realise that Beethoven piece was a funeral march, but it makes absolute sense and explains the sense of melancholy I felt running through the music. Strangely, it was the soundtrack to me writing the death of a much loved character (no spoilers!) and so it seems even more appropriate now. xx

  2. Oh snap! My brother is a musician, too. And music was huge in my life, growing up. My father loved listening to it, but couldn’t read a note. I made him sing at our wedding, as I loved his tenor voice! I grew up on Neil Diamond, and he always played his music LOUD! If he wasn’t playing music, he was whistling.

    I learnt piano until I was fourteen, then took up singing as an adult. All of my kids have learned at least one instrument and they all still play, even the 19yo—she plays her clarinet in an orchestra connected with Uni. It’s a great gift for children, I believe, for them to learn an instrument. Music features in my novel, quite significantly, as it’s still really important to me and how I nourish myself.

    • Oh, that’s lovely Louise. And how nice to have had your father sing at your wedding 🙂 My daughter doesn’t play an instrument as yet, but she loves to dance, another side of the experience. I can’t imagine a life without music and your comment makes me even more interested to read your book, as I’d love to see how the music weaves through it. I’ve interviewed a couple of artists in my time both of whom said they paint the music they can hear which I thought was lovely. Perhaps we are tapping into that idea a little with our writing as well 🙂 x

  3. Interesting post as always Helen. Funny thing is although I adore music and have my headphones plugged in when I do the housework, I can’t write and listen to music at the same time, not even classical. I wish I could, but the music infects my writing – does anyone else suffer from that? Love Duran Duran – I went to a Duran Duran concert in Singapore three years back !

    My daughter’s a classical ballerina so I love ballet music, and my favourite composer at the moment is Avo Part, Speigal im Spiegal, its so sad and the space between the notes almost holds more sound than the music…if you know what I mean. Have a listen on Utube!

    • Thanks Sarah 🙂 I know what you mean about music infecting my writing – sometimes as I say I just play the same piece over and over, as it seems to suit the mood. And I can’t have it too loud, just sort of background sounds.
      I still love Duran Duran too – I saw them most recently in Australia about four years ago – waiting for them to tour again here. I guess you never outgrow your first love in some ways 🙂
      And I will check out the piece of music you’ve recommended – I’m always excited to discover new tunes! (new to me, anyway) xx

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