Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Medieval Music With a Passion

Carmina_Burana_001I really enjoy the Carmina Burana, a 1937 classical composition by Carl Orff. You may not realize it but it’s one of the best-known 20th century pieces. You’ve heard excerpts of the music selling everything from cars to aftershave. And the lingering images after the commercial are powerful.

The music is based on a collection of songs, poems, and plays found in a medieval Germany manuscript found in a Bavarian Benedictine monastery in 1803. The collection was filled with more than 1,000 songs and poems in a wide variety of styles and subject matter. They included religious poems, political satires, drinking songs, and serious and bawdy love songs. All the material appeared to be written by wandering poets (traveling students and monks) at about the same time.

Six plays, all in Latin, were also included in the collection. Two of the plays are the only complete texts of medieval Passion dramas known to exist today.

The Carmina Burana is the largest and greatest collection of nonspiritual lyrics from the Middle Ages. The wealth of information gleaned has added to our understanding of the Medieval goliards (wandering poets), and has demonstrated that secular music thrived in medieval times.

In 1937, the German composer Carl Orff wrote the secular cantata “Carmina Burana,” which was based on the medieval poems. He did not use the original melodies but the opening movement, O Fortuna, is well known. It was the background music for John Boorman’s Excalibur.

Carmina Burana O Fortuna with translated lyrics

Romantic Excess

I was a God-fearing child, innocent and physically unattractive.” — Robert Schumann, Diaries

Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856) was the true Romantic pianist. He lived a life of excess in romance–closely chronicled in an environment of “devotion and tempestuous passion.” 

Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann

Schumann originally started out studying law but left it for music, with the notion of becoming a virtuoso pianist. Then, in some obscure way, he suffered “an injury” to his hand and had to give up this dream:

“Schumann suffered from many afflictions…continuous general malaise, tinnitus, vertigo, insomnia, headache, depression, premonitions of insanity, numbness, cramp, difficulty in writing, speech disturbance, memory failure, a stroke, pains in bones and joints, florid psychosis, giddiness, general paralysis of the insane, and deterioration to death – to which one might add: manic depressive schizophrenia, a suicide attempt, and a hand problem” — http://www.pianisttopianist.com/?p=10

Faced with this failure. Schumann cast about for a remedy and found it in the daughter of his piano teacher. He could not expect to make money as a performing pianist, but Clara Wieck with her modest dowry might answer to the purpose. She was an aspiring pianist, with no injury to her own fingers. Her father naturally objected but Schumann persevered and when Clara was old enough, she decided for herself. (more…)

Music to write by

KG coverjpg

Often times while writing I like to have music on in the background.  I found the music needs to be instrumental.  If there are words, I find that I’m actually listening to the music, and not using it a background.

Music, like the sense of smell brings memories or feelings associated with the music.  So it’s a big help to use music that fits what you happen to be writing.  Since I write historical romance, I tend to use music that reflects this.

I discovered this when I wrote my first novel, Kentucky Green, set in the Kentucky frontier in 1794.  While writing this story, I listened to the movie sound track to The Last of the Mohicans. Not only did the music fit the story, but if I was writing a love scene, there was a romantic track.  Tracks for the action/adventure part of my story.


The History of the Nutcracker Ballet

Postcard of ballerina Olga Preobrajenskaya as the Sugarplum Fairy with Nikolai Legat as Prince Coqueluche in the Imperial Ballet's original production of the Nutcracker.

Postcard of ballerina Olga Preobrajenskaya as the Sugarplum Fairy with Nikolai Legat as Prince Coqueluche in the Imperial Ballet’s original production of the Nutcracker.

One of our family holiday traditions when I was a child was to attend the Nutcracker Ballet every year. I first took my daughter to see the Nutcracker when she was three years old. Perhaps it was a bit early, but at the time she was taking a dance class and loved Angelina Ballerina, and sure enough, she was enthralled from the moment the curtain opened. So began our annual tradition of attending the Nutcracker each Christmas season.

My daughter is now ten and dance is still her favorite activity. After attending a performance of the Nutcracker last week, she started asking questions about its history, so we decided to do a little research. The Nutcracker Ballet was first performed at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia on December 17, 1892. I am lucky to have attended both an opera and a ballet at the theater, so I dug through some old albums and boxes and was able to find a ticket and a picture to share with her.  (Historical Note: The Mariinsky Theatre became the property of the state in 1917. In 1920 it began to be called the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, and in 1935 it was renamed after Sergei Mironovich Kirov. On January 16, 1992, the theatre’s historic name was restored and it became the Mariinsky Theatre once again). (more…)

Music hath powers –

Music hath powers –

At one of our chapter meeting we had a workshop where we listened to music and wrote a paragraph or two in response to the music. This was a new experience for some of the members, but I’ve always listened to music as a background when I write. Mostly, I choose music to give me a feel of the time and period I’m writing.

The idea is to choose music that will focus you on whatever your writing. For example, the story of KENTUCKY GREEN takes place in 1794 and involves the conflict between the Indians and the American in the what was then the Ohio Territory. The hero is part Shawnee, and much of the story takes place outside, so I had a recording (which I’ve lost) of Indian flute music that also included the sound of streams and bird songs.

I also listened to the sound track of The Last of the Mohicans*, as the look and feel of the movie was the same as my story.

When I was doing research for writing COLORADO SILVER, COLORADO GOLD, I found a great CD. The story takes place in Durango, Colorado, and he hero of the story, who now works for Wells Fargo, grew up in a saloon. Several scenes take place in a saloon. The CD I found is Durango Saloon*

Of course, for writing the romantic scenes, I have recordings of love songs. If there are lyrics, I tend to listen, so all the music has to be instrumental, so it just washes over me.

My current work are westerns set in Texas. And, if you’ve read my previous blog you know I love western movies*. So I have several CDs of western movie themes*.

Now, as I said, when I’m writing I can’t listen to music with lyrics. But on the way home from work, I can listen to music that will get me in the mood. Nothing like Marty Robbins* who’s most famous song is El Paso. I’ve read that his grandfather was a Texas Ranger who told him stories when Marty was a boy. And since my heroes are Texas Rangers — you get the idea.

While writing the first of three stories, one of the song lyrics gave me an idea for the next story.

I also use several movie soundtracks as background music as I write. Gettysburg* for the epic, sweeping sounds, Quigley Down Under*, even through its set in Australia, it has that wide open spaces feeling. I like Cowboy Celtic, for the hammered dulcimer sounds.

And lest you think all I listen too is western stuff, I also used the Onigo Boingo* track of Not My Slave to represent the conflict between the hero and heroine in one of the Texas stories.

So, do you use music in your writing? How? What do you listen too?

Last of the Mohicans, soundtrack, Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman
Durango Saloon, Peter Elman
The Wild West, the Essential Western Film Music Collection
Marty Robbins, #1 Cowboy, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs
Cowboy Celtic, Davie Wilkie
Gettysburg, movie soundtrack, Randy Edelman
Quigley Down Under, movie soundtrack, Basil Poledoruis
Best of Boingo, Danny Elfman