‘Vastly yearning, longing for resolution’
Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative process – perhaps to open a secret channel to understand a character, populate a mysterious place, or explore the depths in a pivotal moment. This week’s post is by award-winning novelist and incorrigible genre hopper @GGVandagriff GG Vandagriff
Soundtrack by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Shostakovich, Mendelssohn, Dvorak
Right next to my love of writing is my love of music. In fact, as I look at my novels, I find that music is inescapably woven through them. I take my literary cues from the music I listen to.
Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major was the inspiration behind my women’s fiction: Pieces of Paris. My heroine, Annalisse, is stuck in the Missouri Ozarks with her quixotic husband who thinks he has found the Garden of Eden. However, she grew up on a farm and knows that a farm is just a farm. She is overcome by PTSD and finds herself immersed in flashbacks of another life her husband knows nothing about.
Before that life ended tragically (thus causing her to bury the memories deeply), she was a concert pianist (Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto and Chopin’s etudes figure here). More importantly, she was passionately in love with a brilliant violinist consumed by the Tchaikovsky.
In creating that character, I also became consumed – both with him and with that amazingly complex composition. I played it as I wrote, and Jules became one of my most memorable characters. The concerto is vastly yearning, longing for resolution. Jules’s character development traced the concerto’s. In the same way, as I wrote this book during my 25-year apprenticeship, I was yearning for the completion that only writing could give me. I was stretching, as the violinist stretches in this composition. It was plainly the soundtrack for my literary life.
In my most recent book, The Only Way to Paradise, a tale of four women who find hope and healing in Italy, two of my ‘crazy ladies’ are violinists. Arthritis has stricken Georgia, ending her career as a violin sensation. The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto was her signature piece, and she played it ‘like silk’. As I wrote of Georgia and her memories, I played the concerto as my soundtrack. When she thinks she wants to end her life, she hears through her window in Florence, the sound of the Dvorak violin concerto played by an anonymous virtuoso. The Slavic melody of the music echoes her mood, but saves her life. The violinist turns out to be one of her companions, whom she undertakes to mentor.
It is one of life’s great ironies that I understand music, but cannot play a note, nor even read it! However, I cannot live without it. Now, as I write a frothy romance, I am listening to a lot of Bach and Puccini Arias. Except for the duel scene—that is accompanied by Shostakovich’s uber-dramatic Fifth Symphony!
GG Vandagriff is the author of 12 books and an inveterate genre hopper. She has a series of five mysteries, two suspense novels, one award-winning historical epic, two novels of women’s fiction, and two non-fiction. She is also a journalist, writing for an on-line magazine and Deseret News. Educated at Stanford, she studied music at Stanford-in-Austria. Her latest book is another genre hop into romance, The Duke’s Undoing. Find her on Twitter, her website and her blog.
11 thoughts on “The Undercover Soundtrack – GG Vandagriff”
What a marvellous description of the musical underpinning of two books. This creates complete identification and immediately the need to read the books! When my daughter was studying the Tchaikovsky her Russian violin teacher told her to imagine that each note was a ‘footprint in the snow’. That image has never been forgotten. The immaculate silences between them seems to convey all the longing described in the passage above, and somehow the vastness of Russia itself. Why can’t words be equally economical? Oh the envy of composers!
Hi Philippa – it’s gorgeous, isn’t it? I always find these Soundtrack pieces turn a novel inside out.
That’s a breathtaking detail about your daughter’s violin teacher. Music is like a direct line to the soul. But is music the only medium that can do this? Surely poetry can carry weight and width beyond just the words?
What a gorgeous cover – to match this gorgeous post . . . beautiful.
Kat, I adore that cover. I’ve been gazing at it and slurping.
I know! it’s lovely!
Sounds like a wonderful story! Beautiful cover too. I love when music deepens our emotions and then the character!
Hi Laura! I love that line about ‘vast yearning’ … as you can see because I showcased it. That’s what music can give us in one punch.
One longs to believe that Roz, but poetry merely aims to approximate…and even that points up the gulf.
Roz, I had forgotten all about this, and am sorry I haven’t written sooner. Just got out of the hospital. Missed my music! What a nice surprise to find this post! Thanks for featuring it!
GG – thanks so much for the post. We’re salivating over your music, your novel and your cover. All the best for a full recovery.