Writer’s Music: John Powell

71urxg-0jl-_sx355_I wanted to label this post “John Powell III,” since technically I’ve shared his music twice in the past, but those posts were during National Novel Writing Month. Care to hear them? Both selections are brilliant. The first, from his Academy Award nominated score How to Train Your Dragon, is just…wow. It’s beautiful, lifting, hopeful, and the swell cuts off at just the right moment. The second is from the same album I’m about to talk about, The Bourne Supremacy. It’s a fantastic bit of action, with all the ups and downs a fight and chase scene require.

Both tracks as well as “Berlin Foot Chase” should help you see why John Powell is one of my favorite composers. His music has such a brilliant narrative feel that never draws from the visual story, but strengthens it from start to finish. For all the action and tension in the Bourne movies, it’s Powell’s keen sense of when to reign in the strings and percussion and when to really give’em that makes viewers clutch the armrests and hold their breath.

Powell is also one of the few composers that’s helped me work through multiple WIPs.

I like having a score to my story. I rarely get a story from my daily life; instead, a scene comes to me during a song, and the scene is so. damn. vivid. I can’t let go of it. I’ll listen to that song, again and again, see the scene replay before my mind’s eye, and…pause it, I suppose I’d call it. I’ll study one character in his motions, then another. The place where the scene is. And then I seek other songs that pull new elements of the characters out, bring the other settings to life. Rather like making a patchwork quilt, you could say. Only the right combinations of colors and patterns will do. And when it comes to my WIPs, certain bands or composers have already been stitched into place. I can’t use them again, for they FIT precisely where they are.

That’s partly what makes this Middle Grade fantasy story so bloody maddening–I mean, incredibly challenging. I was given the character first from Michael Dellert, then the place. While I was able to imagine a plot line, one that I hope is, um, decent, I couldn’t FEEL anything.

Music helps me feel outside myself. Without music, I struggle to place myself next to Gwen. The #13WeekNovel freewrites have helped me talk to her a little, but I’m still not SEEING from her point of view. Even Powell, whose music has been of use to me in three different WIPs just doesn’t fit in Gwen or Droma, blast it.

So, as I embark on this quest for Gwen’s song, please enjoy one of my favorite bits of Powell. Yes, this is the end of the post, and in less than 1000 words! MIRACLE!

Click here for more on John Powell.

Click here for more on The Bourne Supremacy.

39 thoughts on “Writer’s Music: John Powell

  1. This is fascinating Jean – I love how different writers use music. I tend to use particular songs when I am writing a high-intensity scene to help focus and channel my emotion and then let it spill alllll over the page. After all, I can always (and usually do) dial it back a tad during the editing process – but if it isn’t there at the outset, I’m stuffed.
    I’m intrigued that you use the music to help you visualise your characters and their journey. Does it have to be music without words – I also love Mike Oldfield, Vangelis, Jean Michel Jarre and Thomas Newman when I want raw emotion without anyone else’s words getting in the way. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for sharing! I like meeting another writer who loves music for atmosphere. Yes, music is a HUGE help when it comes to reaching into the raw emotion. I do use some music groups, like Florence + The Machine, but they fit that particularly group of characters and story. Their lyrics help speak that mood. Otherwise, I tend to avoid lyrical music. Thanks so much for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating post, fascinating music I’d not heard previous (don’t go to the cinema hardly at all). Amazing that you can write to a musical backdrop…I’m envious. Save for a bit of weird opera from time to time mainly I need silence when trying to pen things (or even spell my own name). Leonard Cohen while on a treadmill or cross-trainer works well in terms of new ideas. Yet, to visualize using music at the very point of writing must be a fine gift to own. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re not the first to tell me silence is golden for writing. πŸ™‚ The music helps me find my emotion, but it also helps me dull out the *$^@ kid’s music I’ve had to listen to all day. It’s hard to write of tension and fear when “Sounds on the Track” from Thomas the Tank Engine is playing over, and over, and over in my head. πŸ˜› So listening to other music helps keep me sane, actually, with writing a rather pleasant side-effect. πŸ™‚ Thanks for coming by! Did you manage to finish that poem about the backwards jogger, or have you continued to write about other harder, darker things?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kids songs and things! Boy do I remember those; β€˜The Wheels on the bus go around and around…’ haunts to this day. I can see where you’re coming from now. Enveloped within your own Phil Spector (obviously not right now!) Wall of Non-Irksome Sound.
        As to yours truly, not feeling well for a few days set me back a step or three (yet there is a tale to go with my demise on the health front I feel sure), so basically aside from a 3am post nightmare thing I posted yesterday I haven’t written anything new as yet and the Post-It Notes affixed to the wall are breeding it seems…those notes really should be shaped as spiders and stuck to web lookalike wallpaper.
        The mood to write I feel coming on…yet hey, how can I moan when you are doing this with kids about you…I don’t even recall doing a bit of thinking, let alone deep thinking or writing when my lot were nippers!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Post-It Spiders on a Web Board = BLOODY BRILLIANT.
        A new poem? Yay! I can’t wait to read it…after this lousy grading is out of my way…I hope you’re out from under the weather soon–I, too, am suffering from a pollen attack or some such thing…all I know is that I want to mango, oranges, and coffee at all times to stay conscious…
        Feel better soon, friend! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      • Funny how the body screams out for the things it needs sometimes. One of my present curses seems to be a B17 deficiency born of me being a veggie for so long. I have always refused to eat anything with a face yet now, after all of me screamed I must have salmon and with tears in my eyes and a concerned wife making sure I took heed of advice standing over me clutching a frying pan I have started to eat fish…moreover the symptoms diminish at an alarming rate! Funny old thing is the human body.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Jean, it’s fascinating how music inspires your writing. And as you point out not the looping versions of the kids’ music. I was mighty pleased when the Tina the Ballerina cassette tape snapped before I did. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Aw, shucks. πŸ™‚ I think I cemented this need when I was in graduate school out of state. I’d create stories in my head, and compile mixed CDs to help me play out those stories in my head as I drove.

      Rather a miracle I didn’t drive off into a corn field, actually… πŸ™‚ xxxxxx

      Liked by 2 people

  4. As I read this beautifully written post, I couldn’t help but think, “How I wish that John Powell could read Jean’s depiction of his music and its influence upon her & her writing!”

    Now, I don’t even know if he’s still alive (and I’m extra-lazy right now, otherwise I’d look him up on Wikipedia) but if he hasn’t thrown off his mortal coil, I’m sure he’d find this post to be such a lovely read.

    While I know he has had a ton of accolades, I doubt any writer has written so eloquently about his compositions’ effects upon her WIP’s! πŸ™‚ XOXO

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yay!!!!! That is SO SO SO cool!

        I certainly hope he read it -he should because that’s the coolest, most awesome, java-riffic guest post he’s ever going to get!

        No doubt! 😜🎼

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOL! Okay that just made my morning. Think my coffee’s steaming back up from the heat of your coolness!

        okay whatever it’s saturday morning and brain not work things good nice beans!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Glad to hear that!

        I’ve only had one cup in your honor this a.m. (Peet’s Major Dickinson) & plan to have more, of course. I prefer to sip Steve’s Smooth French but the cupboards are bare of it. It’s produced here by the Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company & I’ve been drinking the stuff for several decades -it’s super- yummy!!!!!!!!!

        Yes, I’m a java snob! But I try to be a loving & kind java snob, unless you catch me road raging or dealing with horrid youth theater company staff. 😦 Still working on those kinds of dilemmas!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. p.s. I may as well start every comment that I write on this blog with: “As I read this beautifully written post….” because every one I’ve read IS beautifully, eloquently written. Keep it up, my friend.

    And drink a litttle green tea for me, will ya? I need to up my intake – I’ve gotten a bit lazy with my Yogi green tea w/blueberry (yum!) this past week, but I’m still drinking at least a cup or two every morning along with my lifeblood, a.k.a. coffee. :))))

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, me too, me too. 😦 Blondie’s even on my case about it. “Mommy, where’s your tea?” So I’m going to put the kettle on right now and get the box!

      And…you know…you made me blush and squishy again…thank you so much for being amazing–I can feel your friendship cross over the mountains and plains just to reach little ol’ me! xxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jean, you write about music like no one else. No wonder it is a huge part of your creative process. I can understand how a story is born when listening to music.
    Have a wonderful, inspiring week! xx

    Liked by 1 person

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