Music to Soothe the Savage Me

Let’s be honest for a few minutes.  There are times when we just get flat-out angry with the world.  For some this anger is pent-up with each new offense; when finally released it has the power to level cities.  For others, anger is on a hair-trigger; loud, explosive, and short-lived.

There are a multitude of emotions and physical conditions that make us not so nice people.  Stress, fatigue, embarrassment, anxiety, illness, pain, phobias, obsessions all bring out our worst selves.  Let the world be warned before it crosses our path, it might be entering a cross fire.

Over the last few years I’ve discovered more facets of my dark side than I ever cared to find; my ugly, angry, frustrated self.  A great deal of this comes from the day-to-day dealings with my young children who have mastered the art of pushing my buttons, finding my sensitive spots, and exploiting them.  This, combined with quite literally never granting me a moment’s rest is a fast track to the “savage me”.

As a writer, before you can start a session you have to check your emotional baggage at the door, take a deep breath, and dive into your characters world.  The deeper you can immerse yourself, the more authentic the voice will sound, and the better the prose will flow.  However, if you are strung out after a long day of stresses, checking that baggage is almost impossible.  It clings to you like the two-year-old you had to peel off your leg to put to bed.

This is where using music is instrumental [sorry, bad pun].   The actual phrase (in modern English) “Music has Charms to soothe a savage Breast” was coined in 1697 by the Playwright/Poet William Congreve in The mourning bride.  Almeria is mourning the death of King Anselmo and cannot find peace.  After listening to music play she stands and gives this soliloquy:

Music has Charms to sooth a savage Breast
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I’ve read, that things inanimate have mov’d,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform’d,
By Magic Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
‘Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
The silent Tomb receiv’d the good Old King;
He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg’d
Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
Why am not I at Peace?

Almeria could not find her peace in music, and it’s true that there are some pains that music cannot free us from.  However,  it will never hurt to try.  My preferred music engine of choice is Pandora. Pandora is a part of the music genome project where it identifies all the different elements of a song and classifies it in a way that makes it easy to compare to other pieces of music.  Translated to you, tell it what you like and it will find songs by other artists that are similar.  You can create several stations based on your likes and current emotional state.  As they play your station you can tell it if you like the current song or not to help it understand your tastes.  This is a great way to find artists that play music you like.

And it’s free.

Whatever your mood, turn up the music and let the good vibes in.

Happy Writing!

About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, was published in November 2018 and rereleased in Jan 2020. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.
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21 Responses to Music to Soothe the Savage Me

  1. I love music, but I can seldom write to it. On those occasions where it works out for me, the music must be instrumental, or if it has lyrics, they must be in a language I do not understand.

    I admire those who can crank out good prose while being buffetted by music. I wish I could, too.

    Ah, well.

    • oldancestor says:

      At my day job as an editor (which I’ve mentioned before), my co-workers have their i-pods going all day. I’ve tried it, but it’s impossible for me to rearrange corporate jargon while I’m hearing someone’s lyrics sung. I tried classical music, but it puts me to sleep. Which is bad for my productivity rating.

      So I’m with you. Silence.

    • tsuchigari says:

      Most of the time I can’t write fiction to music either, but it works great as a sedge way between daily activities and writing – like a palate cleanser for the mind.

  2. nrhatch says:

    Wonderful post, Jo. Music calms the savage beast, and soothes the troubled mind.

    These days, I have no problem letting go of the “world” to immerse myself fully in creative efforts . . . day to day life drifts away, and my characters surface.

    • tsuchigari says:

      Glad you liked it, music is an important part of my life. These days it is rare when I can sit and enjoy listening to a great piece of music in peace. I need to take more lessons on letting go from you!

  3. mlknudsen66 says:

    That’s funny because I just commented over at Writing Fortress that sometimes we need to HARNESS our anger and frustration for good writing. But I see your point of getting into a mood you in which you can stand to sit down and do it. Mozart and Bach do it for me when I have long stretches of writing time. But sometimes Nickelback…

    • tsuchigari says:

      It can go both ways, great point. If I am calm and happy, it’s hard to write an intense scene so I’ll turn on my heavy beat station to amp up. But If I have to write a tender moment between two characters and I have had a really stressful day I need to ratchet it down with a little classic piano. Jon Scmidt is a personal favorite.

  4. aunt dianne says:


    Jodi, 1981 or 82

  5. Paula says:

    Excellent, Jodi, and thanks! I had heard of Pandora, but didn’t understand how it worked. I’m heading over there a.s.a.p.! What a gift!

    There are distractions that help and distractions that hinder. The reason our children are such formidably distractions is that they occupy a much larger space in our lives than our conscious minds. You can block out, perhaps, the noisy machinery of life, even everyday tasks and responsibilities in order to concentrate on writing, but it is nigh on to impossible to tune out the chatter, questions, pleadings, and necessary demands of our children – which to most parents are our #1 job.

    I wish you the best in carving out some time just for you. It is exceptionally important to do so if you want to keep the cork in the bottle! I’m not always successful, but I will try and give you ample warning before the next time I pop mine! 😀

    • tsuchigari says:

      Young kids are hard to turn out – especially when they know when you are working and climb up into your lap to demand their favorite computer game. Amen to finding “me” time – just wish I could count on getting on a more regular basis.

      Hope you like Pandora, let me know what you think!

  6. Agatha82 says:

    I cannot cope without music myself so I totally understand. Shame that Pandora is not available for us here in the UK but it’s okay, I’ve got my beloved Bauhaus cds to listen to whilst I write 🙂

  7. oldancestor says:

    As I mentioned above, I can’t write to music. Playing music is a different story though.

    When I am stressed out or just need a buffer between staring a computer all day at work and my laptop all night, I descend into my mancave and play guitar for an hour or so.

    I’m not sure how savage my breast is, but I find guitar playing quite cathartic. It cleanses my mind, then I’m ready to start pecking away.

  8. Arvik says:

    Excellent post. Thanks for posting the soliloquy- that was wonderful.
    I hear you on the music issue (no pun intended… well, maybe a little :P). Personally, I find music a great way to “trick” myself into certain emotions. Either it helps soothe my beast, or it just augments the emotion I was feeling anyway. I find both helpful, depending on what I’m trying to accomplish. Then again, maybe I’m just easily influenced!

    • tsuchigari says:

      Exactly what I was thinking. It’s hard to write with an emotion we are not feeling or have felt recently. Music (or the occasional movie) can really bring those feelings home for writers.

  9. RaShelle says:

    Hey Jo, thanks for this post. Pandora sounds amazing. I’m going to go check it out right now.

  10. Eleven Eleven says:

    Pandora IS amazing, and music does target the part of the brain responsible for bouts of rage, the temporal lobe.

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