Sound + Vision, Words + Pictures

This post has nothing to do with the David Bowie song, but I needed some sort of media to go with it. And I really like (and really miss) David Bowie.

I’ve always liked having some background sound, no matter what I was doing.

  • Music, audiobooks, & podcasts while painting.
  • Music while driving!! Love this.
  • Music while writing (soundtracks & instrumentals).
  • Music even while studying, back when I was in school.
  • Music while exercising, walking, meditating, doing yoga.

Lots of people like & do these things, sure. For me, though, sometimes they go hand in hand like cookies & milk, to such a degree that one without the other is difficult and unsatisfying to the point of making it almost not worth doing.

When I paint and listen to an audiobook, the over-analytical part of my brain that would otherwise get in the way of decent painting gets distracted by the story.

Ideally, I make a playlist where I can break the story into 45-60 minute chunks separated by ±3 songs. This way I remind myself of the passage of time and to take breaks periodically. This is one reason why, when I can, I prefer to get audiobooks on CD or via Overdrive – those (usually) come into iTunes with separate parts/chapters, and I can build a playlist around them. Audible’s awesome, and I love when they offer the audiobook at a big discount with the Kindle version. BUT…I’ve gone 3 or 4 hours without realizing it using that Audible app on my phone. And while that can be great for the art, it’s less so for the back & the eyes & all.

If later I return to work on a section of a painting, I’ll have a very strong recollection of what part of the audiobook I was listening to. It’s kinda neat. And weird.

Dramatic soundtracks while writing help get and keep me in “the zone” and can help set the mood for a scene. I also use something called Coffitivity – recordings of cafe sounds, because for some people, that background clutter boosts productivity. Sometimes music’s enough, but sometimes, I add a quiet layer of Coffitivity underneath my writing playlist.

My writing playlist has a range of things, but my favorites lean towards the soundtracks:

  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Passion (Last Temptation of Christ)
  • Akira
  • TRON: Legacy
  • Blade Runner
  • Halo 4
  • Heroes
  • Constantine
  • Batman (Danny Elfman)

It doesn’t have to be wordless for writing, but the words can’t be distracting. So there’s Juliana Barwick, Enigma, Sigur Ros and Dead Can Dance in there. Also some Moby, some Enya, and Benedictine Monks.

This topic has been on my mind a lot lately, because for the past few months – since the accident – this has all been pretty darned different.

I’ve painted in silence. And written, and driven. Because the sound stimulation was too much for my brain as it worked on doing the other thing.

I’ve had to tell people to “stop talking, now.” I’ve had to duck out of panels, or complain about wandering musicians at conventions wandering into zones they were not scheduled to be, or hide from the convention altogether. I’ve had to use earplugs before even considering going to these things. In a few instances where I really wanted to hear the information at a panel, I wore sunglasses to cut down on visual stimulation. Migraines and migraine-like sensitivity (where I can’t handle the stimulation, but can’t quite call it pain (probably still considered a migraine)) play a big part in my ongoing head issues.

This has been a big indicator on how that whack to the head affected me & my capabilities. I went from typically requiring that I stimulate a part of my brain & keep it distracted enough so I could get other things done, to requiring silence or seriously reduced input for even basic functions.

But this ends on a positive note. Things ARE getting better. I’ve slowly started listening to music again in these various activities. I’ve gone through a couple of audiobooks while working on an art work commission in the past 2-3 weeks. And I’m listening to Brian Eno’s Apollo – Atmospheres & Soundtracks while I write this.

I am glad things are getting better, and holy crap, I’m really glad things weren’t worse. Because I like noise, and I’ve really been missing my noise.

I like noise. It doesn’t have to be loud. But sometimes it does.

(For the record, I really really really like quiet, too, especially when I’m trying to sleep)

I especially like the kind of music that involves at least 8 or 9 people making noises.

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