#Writing #Music: Mychael Danna



I use several of Danna’s albums when I write, The Sweet Hereafter especially when I need an atmosphere of unsettlement. There is no orchestra here; often only a few string or woodwind instruments play at a time. Percussion is limited. Harmonies come and go like sunlight beneath a breaking cloudbank.

My protagonist flees an abusive home. She finally is in control of her fate…until a bizarre accident wrecks her bus. No one questions the circumstances, nor does anyone think it strange when another bus, empty of passengers but filled with everything the stranded travelers need, just so happens to come along on an otherwise abandoned stretch of interstate. Only the protagonist feels the wrongness of it all, from the ground beneath her to the sudden stillness of the trees.

I could not have closed my eyes and worked this through if not for Mychael Danna’s The Sweet Hereafter. I visualized the empty road easily enough, but I enjoy the quiet of Wisconsin’s empty places. I could not make myself uncomfortable.

And then I put the tracks “Bus,” “Bus Stop,” and “Why I Lied” together, and found myself shivering inside my protagonist’s skin.

Danna’s music also makes a writer’s point: use only what you need, and use it well. It’s all too easy to dive into sweeping descriptions of the world’s logistics. Background, right? Context? Readers need it!

No, no they don’t. Keep it simple. Share just enough to catch the reader’s eye. Keep him a few steps behind. Then, you may broaden the reader’s vision as the story advances. Danna’s “A Huge Wave” is the perfect track to reflect this idea, for the instruments build slowly from strings, to percussion, to wind instruments, to crest in volume and slink slowly away into the mists once more.

If ever you need your characters to feel unsure of the world about them, lose them in Danna.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!


14 thoughts on “#Writing #Music: Mychael Danna

  1. Pingback: Writer’s Music: Mychael Danna II | Jean Lee's World

  2. Wait, I’m confused. I thought Fallen was in a different time period so the bus is throwing me. Is The Sweet Hereafter a title of some sort in your story or is it part of Tales of the Rivervine (which I am loving, BTDubs)? This music is from the movie, “The Sweet Hereafter,” right? That movie was one of the most gut-wrenching things I’ve ever watched and now I guess I need to buy the music. It’s captivating. Thanks for always throwing me a musical bone, Jean!

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Most welcome. 🙂 I love using the library to discover composers, and Mychael Danna was one of them. Granted, some are real flops, but that’s the joy of using a library–no money lost! Yay!


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