Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ambient Music: Conni St. Pierre’s “Spirits” Albums

I’m always in search of music to write by. Everyone’s needs (not to mention tastes!) are different. Added to this, I’m like many writers in having a fairly narrow set of requirements for “writing music,” but when I play the same pieces over and over again, they might as well be white noise. It’s downright depressing to find that an old favorite has been drained of joy by excessive repetition (not to mention becoming emotionally contaminated by stories that just won’t come together!)

I came across Conni St. Pierre’s work through an amazing community serendipity. She calls her music “meditations, tone poems, and ambient improvisations.” As I understand it, “ambient music” provides atmosphere and flexible structure to some other activity — in this case, writing. 

The three albums I have are Mountain Spirits, Forest Spirits, and Beyond the Sky: Legends of the Starry Night. She plays native flute, shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute), and alto flute, as well as keyboards and other instruments. The flutes give the pieces a haunting quality, but not in the way so much “New Age” music ends up being emotionally manipulative. Listening to many of the tracks, I felt as if I had wandered into a borderland between ordinary and dream realities. There’s just enough melody to create a sense of movement, but not so much as to be distracting. I found that I could wander between the story I was writing and listening to the music with seamless ease and without any sense of losing my place in either. I found myself setting my CD player on endless repeat but never feeling that the music was taking me around in circles, as it were.

You can listen to her music on her website here. The piece on the upper left, “Crossing the Never Summer,” is from Mountain Spirits. You can click through to get more samples. My favorite of the three albums was Beyond the Sky: Legends of the Starry Night, with such pieces as “Message in a Dream” and “Darkness Before Creation.” I found the albums to be uniform enough to have no jarring surprises and varied enough to not get monotonous.

What are your current favorite pieces of music for writing?

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