Writing Playlist – July 8, 2016

Writing playlist Carnivàle sountrack track listing

This week’s writing playlist owes everything to Carnivàle, a great show, if you’re into the Dust Bowl, circuses, and epic struggles between good and evil.

This week’s writing playlist is a bit of a throwback for me. Did you ever watch that show, Carnivàle? It ran on HBO for a couple of seasons between 2003 and 2005.  The story had two tracks: a traveling circus, with all its characters, and a preacher, with all of his town and congregation. The backdrop? The Dust Bowl as contrasted by the verdant richness of California. The conflict? A long-running struggle between good and evil.

So, you know, just the usual.

I loved Carnivàle – and still do – because I’m particularly interested in that general segment of American history. (Which you’ll probably notice when you read Dust Bath Revival come November.) And I’m also really interested in the culture of the traveling sideshow. Throw in the classic battle between good and evil, and, honestly? It’s a pretty safe bet that I am hooked. Which is exactly what happened with Carnivàle.

The sountrack though – that was unexpected.

Now, I really love a lot of the popular music from that era so those inclusions were awesome but not surprising. I just wasn’t anticipating the incidental music composed by Jeff Beal. It really got under my skin and stuck with me. The score does this incredible job of conveying environment and emotion without tipping over into intrusion – when you’re watching the show, the music supports each scene instead of overwhelming it.

So I bought the soundtrack asap.

Ever since, I’ve used it for writing playlist music. It was particularly good when I was working on the first draft of Dust Bath revival – I would have worn the grooves off if it had been on an actual record. Now that I’m doing more work on the second book, I’ve renewed my appreciation for it.

Listening to the same music this early in the draft of the second book is helping me find that tone, that setting that I haven’t had to tap into for a little while.

As much as I generally prefer music with lyrics – hey, I really like to sing along, especially in the car – a lot of scores make really phenomenal writing music. At some point I’m sure I’ll haul out the original Conan the Barbarian soundtrack again and sing its praises, too. Especially for writing tense action sequences.

But before I get to that point, I’m enjoying settling back into the easy melancholy of Jeff Beal’s work for Carnivàle as my writing playlist. This first chapter is a doozy.

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