I have a very clear memory from when I was about twelve.
I was stood alone in the kitchen, alone in the house, in the dark, listening to Samuel Barber's Adagio For Strings. With no other sensory input, no other stimulus to distract me, the sound of it was overwhelming. I sobbed. I cried very, very hard. Not because it made me feel sad, or distressed.
Because it made me feel.
Music has always had a powerful effect on me. Music is very immediate - books and films are longer-lasting. They shape you over time, they tell you a winding story. Music is much shorter and therefore more shocking - it packs all that feeling into a very small space of time.
There is a sentence in The Graces that goes something like:
'Summer told me that music was the closest she ever got to the concept of the Divine.'
When I listen to music that stirs me, that moves me, that makes me want to dance uncontrollably, that makes me want to sing along to it in that unfettered, scrape your lungs out way you do when you think no-one is watching or listening, I start to understand those previously batshit images I've seen of people in spiritual ecstasy. For a feeling so inspired via the physical medium of ears, it's amazingly free of any physical ties. It's all happening in the brain, I suppose, but what is happening to me feels more than chemical, even though it may not be.
Here's a secret I tend to keep to myself when in the bookish world, because I think it might earn me some serious demerits:
I am in awe of musicians in a way that I don't think I will ever be of writers.
By which I mean, I never freak out over meeting hero writers of mine. I never feel nervous or overwhelmed. Mostly I feel curious, and excited - I go out of my way to meet writers that are strangers to me, because I find creative people interesting, stimulating human beings to be around, and I have made many friends this way. And yes, I've been lucky enough to hang out with a few of the writers so important to me that they actively changed my life and shaped who I am - but I still wasn't nervous, exactly.
If I met a hero musician, however... Trent Reznor, perhaps, or Jerry Cantrell, I might, well, fangirl a little bit.
For a while I've been wondering if it's because, unlike writing, I don't get what they do. I just don't get it. How do you construct something that makes me feel that way? Which is weird, because I do understand music. I took exams in musical theory as a child, I was in the choir, the orchestra and played the piano. But I never felt a desire to create it myself. I just want to consume it. I just want to bathe in it and emerge changed.
Writing is different. I felt the desire, oh did I feel it. Words have always come easily to me. I understand how to use them and twist them and I love the power they hold, because it's a power I understand. I do not understand the power of music.
When we understand something, some of the mystique goes out of it. When we see the greenscreen instead of the backdrop of Lothlorien, actors riding on mechanical saddles instead of dragons, a hero celebrity of ours acting like an actual - gasp - flawed human, the magic leaks away.
So maybe musicians will always be a little bit removed from me, because I don't understand what they do, and none of me wants to understand.
Maybe they will always remain a little bit more hero.
Here's the playlist I've been listening to while writing The Graces and its sequel: