Bringing the Music Back Alive: a Workshop

Disinclined though I am to do a hard-sell, which in my case might be Hey, if I can teach a bear to play alto saxophone I can teach you to write like one; but that wouldn’t work because it only works if you can write like you; and the Bear taught himself, mostly. So look here, I’ve put together an online writing workshop under the auspices of The Center for Fiction, which like me is centered in Brooklyn but can transmit—if, and only if, a sufficient number of people pony up the dosh and interest. The subject is Writing About Music is Not Necessarily Like Dancing About Architecture, with a focus on bringing the music back alive in fiction, while also welcoming other modes and means. The workshop begins on April 24 on three consecutive Saturdays. There will be a reading list and things to write beforehand so that we can hit the ground running and somewhat mutually acquainted. Much will occur in response to the work brought in and the kind of conversation we’ll develop, but I’ve framed out the third and final Saturday as a sort of basket in which could be collected a reconfigured sum total of what has gone before: a focus on the Spiritual in Music, with a playlist including, one piece each: J.S. Bach; a long shakuhachi solo; John Coltrane; Aretha Franklin; Mauretanian music with a proto-blues tonality; maybe one more and also Public Enemy. If this seems like a way you’d like to spend some time and not really that much money, please inquire via the Center for Fiction link that should be visible nearby. Thanks for your time, attention, and presumed good-will if you’ve read this far, and let’s tune up and begin to play, if that’s what we want and if it can be done. Music and storytelling combined, just like Charlie Parker said it oughta be. Coming in from the language side and see if we can pick out a tune and make it sing. Tell your friends and help the orchestration out.

Bringing Music Back Alive


3 Sessions

Once a week Saturdays, 2:00 pm EDT – 4:00 pm EDT April 24 to May 8, 2021

Online via Zoom

By now, generations of us have grown up shaping ourselves to music, to finding in it an answering essence to our essence and its quests. It’s an important area of experience that presents particular challenges to the writer—of fiction, memoir, verse, or some other, hybrid, hybrid form—who addresses it; in fiction one needs not only a descriptive facility but a polyphonic sense of context: of atmosphere and character and narrative urgency, whether explicitly or by some subtlety of suggestion that will enable one to pare things down to the barest hints and indications and still get the sound and spirit of the thing across. No writer will find the one and only way to do it.

These thoughts indicate the nature of the workshop’s intention, via reading classic material, generating new work, reviewing work in progress, addressing a wide range of music and seeking the writerly means that can best convey what we feel most moved to write about it.

We will propose a short reading list and a writing exercise in advance, and hope to see work in progress if you’ve got some, all with the aim of making concentrated use of the available time to hear music in the words and words in the music. If you haven’t got work in progress, and even if you have, I’ll propose a brief exercise in advance, so we can get to know each other beforehand.

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