Music is an integral part of writing for me. I prefer to have it on in the background as I write, and I need to have music without lyrics I can understand, so I don't get distracted. My go-to music is usually soundtracks for movies I haven't seen (that way I don't associate the songs with specific scenes), and lately that has meant Becoming Jane, Pride & Prejudice (2005), and The Duchess.
While I was writing Oleanna, Trio Mediaeval's (Grammy-nominated) Folk Songs was the only thing I wanted to listen to. The album is comprised of Norwegian folk tunes, many from the Middle Ages. The three women's voices are both heart-thrillingly crystalline and strange, like a shimmering aurora, often with the earthy counterpoint of a rope-tensioned drum. There are samples of all of the album's songs at the link above, and you can listen to the full version of Villeman og Magnhild here.
But for me there's the music you listen to while you write, and there's soundtracks that represent the story you've written.
Other authors see soundtracks differently--which is why I hosted a podcast in 2008, Writers & Their Soundtracks, sharing the stories and soundtracks of writers as diverse as Elizabeth Chadwick, Ekaterina Sedia, Heather Domin, Jason Erik Lundberg, C.C. Humphreys, and Jeff Sypeck.
I like to create my soundtrack after the fact, choosing songs that I find representative of the story and the characters. Here's the soundtrack I've created for Oleanna.
I Mine Kate Ungdomsdagar (In My Reckless, Youthful Days) by Trio Mediaeval (which also shows up as a song Anders sings in Oleanna)
In my reckless, youthful days – I recall them well
I was free of worries and was such a happy soul
Then I began to think about just how it all would end,
if I could find a decent boy on whom I could depend.
Det Star Ein Friar Uti Gare (There's a Suitor in the Garden) by Lief Sorbye
Falling Through the Ice by The Ocean Blue
Jealous of the Moon by Nickel Creek
Staring down the stars, jealous of the moon
You wish you could fly.
But you're staying where you are
there's nothing you can do
if you're too scared to try.
I hate to see a friend of mine,
Laughing out loud when she's crying inside,
but you've got your pride.
Stay by The Blue Nile
Stay, stay, stay and I will understand you
Stay, I will understand you
I write a new book everyday
A love theme for the wilderness
How Distant Your Heart by Robin Guthrie
This Joy by Stephanie Dosen
Send up the sun now
the midnight darkness
is nearly through
I'm one day older
but this love is still as true
and hey its gonna be taking me over
this joy is gonna fill the inside out...
Short Trip Home by Joshua Bell, Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall, and Sam Bush
Hljómalind by Sigur Rós