Writing and Making Music

I’ve been having a conversation with my friend, the writer and journalist Noel Harvey. http://noelharvey.co.uk/ This week I want to quote his words… “Craft can be taught in a classroom, or learnt from a book, but the art must then be practised. If a writer doesn’t understand that adverbs often warrant criminal proceedings; that adjectives must to be used with prudence, that verbs hold the power, that invoking the senses is critically important, he can be taught these things. But being, feeling, observing, sensing – you cannot teach this. You must experience it for yourself.

It’s the bit that comes from the heart and soul, from the feelings if you like. And ultimately it’s where the power lies. Just as an artist understands paint and materials and perspective, and light, and wood carvers understand chisels and wood and varnishes, so good writers understand adjectives and verbs and punctuation and plot lines. But this understanding alone will not create powerful art.

But you can, I think, help people open up to it, to develop their sensitivity, to tap into their feelings, and find ways to convey them. And then the artist can say ah! This is the feeling I want to convey. This is what I want my audience to feel. This wretchedness/ecstasy/boredom/revulsion whatever it is.

You could say, ‘I’m miserable, and sleepy, and I can’t feel anything.’

Or you could say, as Keats did in ‘Ode to a Nightingale’,

‘My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains

My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains’


Same stuff on the inside, but look at how you respond to each of these pieces.

Here’s an extract from an interview I did with the guitarist Andy McKee. http://www.andymckee.com He was and is, an excellent technical musician, but was getting very little recognition:

‘Of course there’s always a phase where you’ll want to develop some technical mastery of the guitar’, he says, ‘but you don’t want to be lost on that for the rest of your life’.

In the words of Andy McKee, what we need to recognise when we read, or listen to music, is that, first and foremost,

‘It’s the beauty that hits you.’  ”

The Weekly Prompt

Refer to the Keats Poem ‘Ode to a Nightingale’. What is it, in your opinion, that brings these words to life, that makes them sing?

Write a piece of poetry or prose, inspired by this poem.