Writing lessons – amps to 11 with Pink Floyd!

A few years ago She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were sitting quietly at home watching the 483,986th TV re-run of The Sound of Music. It was a hot evening. The windows were open.

MJWright2011Julie Andrews got up to sing. And suddenly the room filled with sound. The anti-Sound Of Music. Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. Undistorted. In our lounge.

I thought it was the neighbours. But it wasn’t. It was someone four doors down and over the back fence, who wanted to fill the evening air with Messrs Waters, Gilmour, Mason and Wright at planet-engulfing volume.

Impressive. We were 75 metres from source. Yet the whole was crystal clear, balanced, without a skerrick of distortion.

The panel of one of my analog synths... dusty, a bit scratched, but still workable.
The panel of one of my analog synths… dusty, a bit scratched, but still workable.

Usually, when someone whips amps to 11 all you get is the bass whoomph, which isn’t audible next to the speaker. It’s to do with the way the wave generates.

But not this. I’m talking perfect fidelity. That meant it was a really, really good sound system – set up by someone who knew precisely what they were doing. The secret word might be ‘Perreaux’ (Google it).

And they used this to play Pink Floyd. Sub-zero cool. What made it doubly amazing was the quality. Pink Floyd span the gamut of amplitudes and frequencies. Meaning that not only technically pure sound but also intentional distortion has to be amplified without further distortion, then conveyed over distance. I cannot say how amazing that was, to me at least.  (OK, I’m a geek… hey, it’s the 21st century. Geeks won the war for cool. Get over it.)

Welcome to the machine. We abandoned the Trapp family and went outside. Probably other neighbours hated it. But hey…

All this has a point when it comes to writing. Quality counts. Anybody can whip the amp to 11 – which in the writing sense means splurging out words.

Anybody can write. It’s taught at school, apparently. Can everybody write like Hemingway? Certainly not. And that is the issue. Getting to Hemingway level means evolving skills beyond the point of ‘unconscious incompetence’ into the tortured realms of apprenticeship – of ‘conscious incompetence’, of ‘conscious competence’ – and then ‘unconscious competence’, when writing is second nature.

Possibly all to a soundtrack of Pink Floyd. I like that idea. Do you?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013

10 thoughts on “Writing lessons – amps to 11 with Pink Floyd!

  1. I am sure my son would have done what you did… I am with your wife – Sound of Music type. Or opera LOL
    Your point is excellent though. Mind you I wouldn’t write to loud music any more🙂

    1. The music I write to depends on what I’m doing. Often it’s classical because I like it, and it usually lacks lyrics to interfere with the words. Mozart really did write muzak (and deliberately so, for dinner entertainment). But I also like Pink Floyd…🙂

      Luckily I have pretty wide music tastes – I actually like the Sound of Music and similar, along with Floyd… I was brought up on a diet of classical music, and today like everything from classical to the romance composers to jazz of all flavours (I am a HUGE jazz fan) – to folk to funk, to rock to reggae to prog rock to synth pop to metal. The only stuff I don’t listen to much is opera, which is kind of curious because I do listen to its modern equivalent – European operatic metal. Thoroughly bombastic.

      I used to think there was a ‘generation gap’,in the sense of ‘my’ generation being more comfortable with rock music, and my parents preferring Sinatra-style jazz; but have changed my mind of late since discovering that Christopher Lee, to mark his 90th birthday, released a heavy metal album.

  2. This may sound odd, but I prefer to write sans music of any kind. Now if I’m “think writing”, soundtracks are my preferred medicine. Conan, Star Wars, and LOTR are all good choices. One song that seems to help when I’m working on character creation is a Bonnie Tyler tune, Holding out for a Hero. I put it on repeat, set the volume at “Jet airplane engine levels” and get to work. After 20-25 times through the whole song, I’ll turn it off and let my ears recover.

    1. Not odd at all – extraneous sound can often dislodge good writing. I sometimes write to silence, and for me, that’s why classical music also works for me better than other music – much of it was deliberately written to background dinner parties etc, a texture without being obtrusive. It’s different if I’m working on the novel I’ve had cooking along for a while, when I get time around my non-fiction contracts. That demands Scandinavian ‘Heavy Mithril’ among other rather epically scored European orchestral metal bands …from which you might be able to deduce the novel’s genre…🙂

  3. “The band is just fantastic, that is really what I think. Oh and by the way, which one’s Pink?” Oh yeah, I could listen that at 11. I think Dark Side of the Moon and Animals are my faves. I want to hear Gilmore’s bolero at the end of Sheep, REALLY LOUD. Someday I would like to hear Yes’ Siberian Khatru on the system you’re describing. Also Jethro Tull. Their complex arrangements need a superior system to fully appreciate.

    1. I will never forget the moment I first heard the opening tracks of The Wall – which absolutely have to be heard at 11! A stunning album – character insights and psychology (mostly, I suspect, autobiographical to Waters) worthy of a novel, made deeper in the movie. I knew people who watched it, left the cinema, turned around and went straight back in to watch it again on the next session..

      ‘Yes’ – absolutely. I’m thinking ‘Awaken’. Tull – definitely. My pick would be ‘Minstrel in the Gallery’..

      Uh…you don’t suspect your and my CD collections are clones, by any chance…🙂

      1. You never know. I’m a big fan of the older prog rock. Always have been. I’m a big fan of 70s rock and funk and 90s grunge. I branch out into jazz and blues occasionally as well.

        1. Apropos prog – likewise. I saw Rick Wakeman performing a live solo concert last year – just fantastic. I’m also into their genre descendant, European orchestral metal in its various flavours. Lots of 70s rock. Everything Frank Zappa did. Jazz, definitely – also US west coast funk-jazz (Return to Forever, Chick Corea) etc. Kind of eclectic, but there’s a lot to like about a lot of music!

  4. Hi, I love music, when I’m confused, I would like to listen rock music. And I feel confortable with soft music when angry. I love my guitar, it always can calm me down. Thanks for your post, I have learnt a lot.

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