Somewhere in my TBR stack, I have a short-story anthology inspired by music by Rush. And I know there are books that have been kicked off by certain songs or instrumental compositions. But only three times has music driven me to write something, in both cases scenes or chapters, not entire books (yet.)
The first time was the climactic scene in A Cat at Bay. The music was the end credits of Saving Private Ryan, which I happened to be singing at the time, and so was spending a great deal of time listening to. It is not the easiest choral obligato, and since we were doing it in the round, we had to memorize everything so we could watch like hawks. (The farther you are from the orchestra, the more you have to sing by sight and not sound.) By coincidence I was working on that chapter, and had no idea just where it was going to go. The music answered that question, taking Rada out into the garden and then warning Rahoul Khan and Joschka von Hohen-Drachenburg to follow her.
As an aside, that was one of the two hardest scenes I think I’ve written in that series. I’ve looked into that abyss once or twice myself, when I was younger.
The second and third scenes are in the next-but-one Cat book, currently entitled In Sheltering Talons. One I’ve mentioned and excerpted here before and comes from “The Mary Ellen Carter (Rise Again).” The other was inspired by Marta Keen’s “Homeward Bound.”
“Homeward Bound” came to my attention in a home-made music video a military contractor put together after the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It reached into me and dang near ripped my heart out, because by then I’d gotten into the mil-blogs and knew of two people who could be the exact person in the song. Plus the video was quite well done. But that was a long time before the scene got written.
The song came back two years ago or so, when I was working on a chapter and trying to sort out how Rada and Joschka cope with his being retired and home, and her never being able to settle down. He’s possessive to a fault because of his draconic hording instinct has settled on hoarding relatives and protecting the House, and once she comes into both of those categories, well, you can imagine how he feels when she goes away. She wants to stay with him but knows in her bones that she can’t settle down with him in Austria. He’s terrified she’ll never come back. She’s afraid of bringing her enemies down on his family. But how do they explain that to each other?
Enter Marta Keen Thompson: “In the quiet misty morning When the moon has gone to bed,/
When the sparrows stop their singing And the sky is clear and red,/
When the summer’s ceased its gleaming When the corn is past its prime,/
When adventure’s lost its meaning – I’ll be homeward bound in time.
Chorus – Bind me not to the pasture Chain me not to the plow/ Set me free to find my calling And I’ll return to you somehow.
If you find it’s me you’re missing If you’re hoping I’ll return,/
To your thoughts I’ll soon be listening,And in the road I’ll stop and turn/
Then the wind will set me racing As my journey nears its end/
And the path I’ll be retracing When I’m homeward bound again./
Bind me not to the pasture Chain me not to the plow Set me free to find my calling And I’ll return to you somehow/
Bind me not to the pasture Chain me not to the plow Set me free to find my calling And I’ll return to you somehow.”
(Repeat verse one)
And then I knew how to write the scene.