Music To Write By

Sweeping Classical

I always listen to music when I write, unless it is physically impossible. These days I’ve been working my way through a lovely book called Year of Wonder: Classical Music to Enjoy Day by Day by Clemency Burton-Hill. Through it I’ve discovered two new favorites that I find so achingly beautiful I had to share them.

Gustav Mahler

First is the above piece by Mahler. It’s the Adagietto from his Symphony No. 5, and it is just stunningly beautiful. The story goes that Mahler wrote this piece as a love letter of sorts to his wife, Alma. The music alone is enough to move me, but then add that bit about the love letter and I’m imagining all kinds of stories in my head. Oh, and this work was also largely composed while Mahler was visiting his summer cottage. So we have a beautiful piece of music, a love letter, and a summer cottage. The imaginative mind starts to bubble.

Edward Elgar

Another piece I discovered through Burton-Hill’s book, Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85: I. Adagio – Modereto. Don’t ask me what any of that musical notation means, because I do not know. All I know is that this music, composed right after World War I, is achingly beautiful. A bit of interesting history: the piece was not well received when first performed, owing at least in part to a lack of rehearsal time for the soloist. Its popularity stems from this beautiful interpretation of the work by cellist Jacqueline du Pre. You can read more about that here if you are interested.

Credit where it’s due

I have to give a nod to one of my all-time favorite podcasts, That Classical Podcast, for introducing me to both these pieces before I ever came across Burton-Hill’s book. If you’ve not heard of That Classical Podcast, please do go check it out. Two young people talk about their love of classical music while cracking my kind of ridiculous jokes. It doesn’t hurt that they are British, or that they are both artists in their own right. Seriously, check them out.

Not my usual fare

I usually listen to soundtrack music while I write. I actually create whole playlists for each writing project. I’ll be sharing more of my favorite pieces here soon, because I just feel like inspiration should be shared.

My Own Austen Hero

“It is a handsome face…”

Created by Dawn Wells

How does one choose a favorite Jane Austen hero? I certainly cannot say which is my favorite definitively, but on any given day I can name my best-loved. Today it is Mr. Tilney, because today I had a small revelation while sitting for hours in the dentist’s chair.

That’s right. While in the dentists chair, desperately trying to distract myself from the many tools and noises around me, I decided to chose which Jane Austen hero my own husband was most like. At first, I thought of Mr. Darcy. He’s shy, passionate, can be gruff, and is also arrogant. Hmm…that last part didn’t quite fit. Also, he’s reserved beyond measure, much as I adore him.

If not Darcy, then who?

Then I realized, my husband may be shy, like Darcy, but he is forever teasing me and the kids. He loves the outdoors, has no interest in pleasing others at the detriment of himself or our family, and is generally a fun person to be around. He is my very own Henry Tilney. No, he may not have Henry Tilney’s ability to navigate a ballroom, but then, that suits me just fine.

The most handsome man of my acquaintance

It’s Time for a Remake

Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen in Pride & Prejudice, 2005

It’s been too long

It’s time for a new cinematic adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. The 2005 film was over ten years ago! I’ve seen information about an iTV version made within the last couple of years, but I have yet to find the actual miniseries anywhere. I’ve watched and re-watched all my favorites, but I’m hungry for a new version.

A humble suggestion

This man, Mr. Tom Hiddleston, could be perfect for the role of Darcy, don’t you think? Oh my goodness. He is, in fact, a superb actor. Have you seen The Hollow Crown? If not, you should check it out. So good.

But who should play Lizzy? Miss Elizabeth Bennet must be such a hard role to play. She is so beloved by so many. Emma Watson, perhaps?

A Secret About Jane Eyre

I have a confession to make. I’ve never read anything by the Brontë sisters. That’s right. I’ve never read Jane Eyre, nor have I read Wuthering Heights or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I feel a fair amount of guilt about this.

Why have I not read some of the greatest novels ever written? How could I, a reader, a student of English Literature–and a feminist besides–not have read anything by the Brontës?

How have I missed quotes like these?

The truth is…

The truth is, I missed reading the books in high school and college through happenstance. Why don’t I read them now? Because I choose to read literature with as few triggers as possible. And as wonderful as these books are, you have to admit they are full of triggers. Abusive husbands, abandoned children, mental illness and mistreatment. Goodness!

So when I came upon a clip from the 2011 film adaptation of Jane Eyre, I was nervous. In fact, the first time I tried to watch it I had to turn it off shortly after I began it. However, YouTube being the wonderful thing that it is, I was recently able to watch the best of the movie, while avoiding the sad/terrible bits.

Let me just say, I can now understand why people love this story so very much. Dear me, the passion that exists between these two characters is breathtaking. It drew me in immediately. As a modern viewer, it’s heartbreaking to watch Rochester struggle with a problem that would be easily rectified in our times. Well, more easily rectified at least.

“It’s you. You rare unearthly thing.”

Also, let’s not forget the power of the actors themselves. I know the above quote is not pure Brontë, but the way Michael Fassbender delivers this line is swoon worthy. Add to that the way Mia Wasikowska embodies Jane Eyre, and you have magic.

It’s enough to make me want to read the book, despite the pain represented within. So perhaps one day soon I will join the ranks of Brontë devotees. Or I might just remain on the sidelines, happily watching Michael Fassbender.

Finding Inspiration in Strange Places

Frederica of Mecklenburg-Streilitz

This is the lovely Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, later Queen of Hanover. She lived from 1778-1841. Frederica was married to Prince Louis of Prussia when she was only 15.

Apparently, she went on to have quite the life. She was married three times, had various affairs throughout her first two marriages, and was accused of murdering her second husband. This accusation, in my opinion, was rather unfounded. By all accounts, however, her third and final marriage was one of mutual love and affection.

I do wish I knew who had created this painting. I found it while searching for images of early 19th century fashion. The beautiful Frederica does wear a stunning empire-waist gown in this painting. I particularly love the lavish sash and collar.

Looking at this painting makes me want to write a story! Does anyone know who painted it? Or how to track down an old artist? I honestly don’t even know the name of the painting.