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Music to writing; writing to music

We had another excellent writing workshop on Tuesday 21st August, when HighlandLIT Chair Paul Shanks spoke about links between music and creative writing. He spoke of composers who had been inspired by music (such as Claude Debussy was moved by a  Paul Verlaine poem to compose Au clair de la lune. And he discussed writers – including James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Thomas Mann – who wrote creatively about music, or used words, silences, punctuation so that the text itself had to it a musical quality.  Most stunning was a passage from Dr Faustus describing a performance of Beethoven’s final piano sonata (no 32, op111) in an attempt to demonstrate why the composer never wrote a completing third movement – here is part of Mann’s text:

But when it does end, and in the very act of ending, there comes–after all this fury, tenacity, obsessiveness, and extravagance–something fully unexpected and touching in its very mildness and kindness. After all its ordeals, the motif, this D-G-G, undergoes a gentle transformation. As it takes its farewell and becomes in and of itself a farewell… it experiences a little melodic enhancement. After an initial C, it takes on a C-sharp before the D … and this added C-sharp is the most touching, comforting, poignantly forgiving act in the world. It is like a painfully loving caress of the hair, the cheek–a silent, deep gaze in the eyes for one last time. It blesses its object … with overwhelming humanization…

And then Paul played us a haunting piece of music, asked us to note down what we heard happening in the music, or visualised as we listened to it.   Then we had to write creatively using our notes as a guide.  It was for some of us a revelatory experience – people spoke of making connections they hadn’t made before, of thinking new thoughts. And the writing  produced was of outstanding quality in its sensitivity, perception and expressive skill.

Paul did not identify the piece – in fact the finale of Mahler’s 10th symphony, which the composer left in draft at his death, and was subsequently orchestrated – until after the exercise had finished.

We’re hugely grateful to Paul for his insightful lecture, and the warmth and insight with which he responded to each piece as some of us read our work publicly.

Everyone present is invited to send their work to – it will appear on this page as a record of a creative and indeed magical evening.

Amanda Gilmour

Lulling Heart


A heart that lulls still tugs at me. Tuned into my core, it pulses. Pulled along by the beat of the emotion, I await something that will never return. Mourning and euphoria pummel me in equal measure, but do the notes have the measure of my mind?

Inwards I roar, purging the lingering echo edging the wound.

Here's a link to the final movement of  Mahler's 10th, in the version orchestrated by Derryck Cooke. The section Paul played begins at 21:45. Unfortunately the completion by Remo Mazzetti,  which Paul played last night, and which has a more satisfying 'bang' is not available on-line.

Paul Drew.JPG

Drew Hillier

It swells and tugs at the heartstrings in an all-too knowing way

Ultimately inconsequential in the overall scheme of things

Marshalling middle-class emotions - folksy and table mannered


Luring us onward

The perfect accompaniment for sons being sent to war.

Lis Jackson

The river calm, swans swimming gracefully like ballet dancers performing to an audience. The sun beating down on the river, shimmering like the twinkling lights on a stage. All is beautiful.

Suddenly the sky moved from blue to black, the scene changed. The swans disappeared looking for shelter as the sky became angry. The noise from the thunder was deafening. The lightening flashed and cracked like a whip, lighting up the sky and river like spotlights.

Then as quickly as it started, it was over, peace and tranquility commenced again.

Jayne Austen

The frayed edges of my soul, in comfort find the mellow tones. Towards questions, unresolved, a bump... expectant sense... anticipation?

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