The soundtrack to my life


This week’s Design File is about wonderful Lloyd Loom furniture, one of my favourite styles.  For me, they evoke my grandmother’s house where each bedroom had a white Lloyd Loom chair in the corner.  She must have bought them in the 1930s because my mother remembered them from when she was a girl.  We still have them and they’re strong and comfortable and stylish.  Just right for listening to music…(a clunky segue but let it pass just this once, please)

I can’t imagine a world without music.  It can help enhance or modify your mood (in negative as well as positive ways) and it can stimulate a whole new foray into creativity.  I once went to a Breath Workshop where the combination of carefully chosen music and regulated breathing put me into a powerful altered state for an hour or so, reaching deep into the psyche that left me feeling both exhilarated and calm.
I seldom write without background music.  My preference is for classical and always has been.  My sister was a bit of a rocker.  While her bedroom reverberated to the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Genesis, her twelve year old brother was belting out Rossini overtures next door.  Naturally our tastes have evolved over time.

Except that I was always a fan of soundtracks.  Sight and sound in perfect harmony.  Once you’ve seen Death In Venice, can you ever wander that city’s alleyways and hidden squares without thinking of Mahler’s 5th?

At first my taste was pretty undiscriminating.  If I liked a TV show then I liked the music.  That meant anything from The Persuaders to (ahem) The Waltons.  Films had to have some kind of dramatic sweep, so Dr Zhivago was in as were all the Bond films.  (My sister was appalled.)

At university, writing essays to the music of Michel Legrand or George Gershwin was my norm.  It hasn’t really changed.  Except now I have an iPod filled with film soundtracks, something for every mood.  I like to have the whole score rather than the ‘top tune’ because it gives you all the nuances.

These are a few of my favourites at the moment:

Anything by Nino Rota – from his Fellini soundtracks (oh, La Strada!) to the sweeping scores for Visconti’s The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) and Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, his music has some real emotional clout as well as a quirky silliness that always makes me smile. He can do no wrong in my eyes (and ears).


Ennio Morricone – another Italian composer with a vast repertoire. Distinctly odd and a bit wild at times, this man can write tunes. Famous for his scores for The Missionary and Cinema Paradiso, I’m hooked at the moment on his score for Malick’s Days of Heaven.


Abel Korzeniowski – after his melancholic score for A Single Man, it’s worth listening to his others. I’m writing to his Romeo & Juliet score (a recent British film) at the moment because it has all the highs and lows that help sweep me into an altered state of writing.


Alexandre Desplat – he’s the current go-to composer, with gentle scores for everything from Girl With The Pearl Earring to Rust & Bone. Perfect writing music.


Georges Delerue – if you’re writing a French novel, as I am, then having the scores of classic Truffaut films can help put you in the mood. Jules et Jim is so distinctive and Delerue had an ability to turn the mood with a single chord (or with a flute).


I could go on – James Horner’s A Beautiful Mind is so haunting;  fire yourself up with one of the robust old scores of Erich Korngold (Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk);  Georges Auric’s gorgeous Belle et la Bête is as luscious as anything by Ravel;  Legrand’s perfect The Go-Between…So many to love.

So now it’s your turn to share.

What music do you like to write/ paint/ work to?

I’m all ears…




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