Music plays a significant part of my writing, perhaps because I’m a musician. I studied at music college many years ago. While I didn’t reach my ambition to become a band director or another kind of music teacher, I’ve never lost my adoration of the art.
In The Journeymen, there’s no shortage of musicians, too. The nice thing about being an author is that you have the opportunity to build a world where you’re allowed to have a bit of wish fulfillment. I didn’t finish music school, but I could make my characters far more successful in these endeavors.
Sarah, my female lead, and her mother, Tina, are both pianists. I had constructed a scene in which Sarah plays piano for her new friend, Giovanni, that was so lovely and moving he has a moment when all his misfortune comes crashing down on him. The scene isn’t as dramatic as I had originally envisioned it, but it may actually be better for it.
First things first, though. I needed music.
The scene screamed Chopin to me. That was odd, because Chopin is such mellow music, usually. Worse, I reached for his Nocturnes. These are generally rather gentle piano pieces and aren’t really conducive to heavy duty emotional moments. They are much more like lullabies.
But it was so perfect! Nocturne No. 21 is Chopin’s last nocturne, released posthumously. It has a great deal of restraint that only comes from maturity. It also has a hidden sense of whimsy, or at least as much as you can have with a piece in a minor key. It spins a slow waltz through arpeggios and carries the listener to a tender place.
It was perfect. A fairly short piece that an amateur pianist could conceivably have memorized. But certainly not just that. The restraint of the piece isn’t an emotional bombshell, and that was perfect. No music could have forced Giovanni to face his inner demons. But a tender touch, a caress, and gentle lead, even a deceptive dance, could bring him to his knees before he could ever know what hit him.
For real, books need soundtracks.
Even if you aren’t into classical music or piano music, I hope you’ll give this one a listen. It’s beautiful and you don’t have to invest your whole existence into it. I think it says a lot about Sarah, too. Sweet and twirly with a bit of a dark side.