Imagination, Inspiration, Music, Words, Writing

Seeing the music

I sometimes forget to view song lyrics as writing—stupid, I know. This morning I had a nearly ninety-minute “commute.” By that, I mean I drove my husband to work, my granddaughter back to her house, and then drove myself back home. On my return trip, I plugged in my iPod and listened to Suzanne Vega’s Solitude Standing. (Yes, it’s old—1987!)

For several months back then, I listened to this and her debut album (on repeat) while I worked in my art studio. For the first two songs, I was lost in memories of that place and time, but then I clued in on some of the lyrics for the third—”Ironbound/Fancy Poultry.”

Instantly, the same mental picture of the scene I conjured long ago popped into mind. That visual effect always happens when I reread a novel or story, but usually when I listen to familiar music, I only have the memories associated with the time or place I heard it before—like in my art studio circa 1987. Why was this song different?

I restarted the song and listened closely. Here are the opening s:

In the ironbound section near Avenue L
where the Portuguese women come to see what you sell
the clouds so low the morning so slow
as the wires cut through the sky

The beams and bridges cut the light on the ground
into little triangles and the rails run round
through the rust and the heat
the light and sweet coffee color of her skin

Such beautiful description. Is it any wonder I “saw” this song? Today I have housework and more driving to do. I think I’ll listen for more description.

Note: There is an interesting subtext on the subjugation and objectification of women to this song. Here’s a video with lyrics. (Warning: a few words are wrong.)

[tweetmeme source=”cassidylewis” only_single=false]

19 thoughts on “Seeing the music”

  1. An hour of focused listening would be an excellent way to stimulate the muse. Add music and it’s a win on more than one level. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this with us. Off to check out the video.


      1. The music I play while writing has ZERO words. All of my writing CD’s are instrumentals. They range from classic to new age with the exception of Enigma. For some reason the words in Enigma’s music does not distract me. But if the radio is on in the background and someone is singing or talking, I’m instantly removed from my writing. I’ve taken to wearing headphones while I write for this reason.

        Now for the strange part. If I am doing math, formulas, spreadsheets, budgets, or anything that is number related there must be very loud speed-metal music blasting in my headphones for me to concentrate. I’m an odd duck, I know.


        1. It’s usually very quiet while I write, and I enjoy the silence. I used to have music playing nearly every minute I was awake, but I wasn’t seriously writing then.

          No danger of me doing much of “anything that is number related” so I guess I’ll never know if speed-metal would enhance that experience. 😀


  2. The quality of the musicians in this town is something. What you see alot of is people who come here and they are a big fish in a small town and they get eaten alive. One of the myths about Nashville is that country music is everything when in reality healthcare and financial services provide more jobs.


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