Music & Me: Joanna Walsh
What are your earliest musical memories?
I was at school and everything was new and terrifying. I was probably about 5. One of the teachers told the class to ‘draw your favourite pop band’ and I was paralysed with horror because I hadn’t the least clue what a ‘pop band’ was. I knew music came out of the radio but I had no idea how it got there. We didn’t have a telly so I had no idea what a band looked like, how many people were in it, what they did, or whether what made music was even human.
Who or what were your musical influences growing up and why?
This really doesn’t get much better: I lived in a fairly isolated environment where the music I heard was mostly commercial pop that seemed to be selling some kind of commercial sexuality that made me deeply suspicious. I remember there was one guy in my school who had a Smiths t-shirt, which seemed exotic and kind of scary – I had no idea how to enter that world, or how to find out whether I’d like to. Pre-internet, I didn’t have access to finding out about what sort of music I liked, and I didn’t have much money to buy it, so I just rejected all pop as some sort of capitalist con trick… until I got to college. I missed so much (including the commercial pop, some of which was great; I just didn’t know how to listen to it).
Does music influence your writing?
Yes, very much. I [want to] write like a lyricist: prose with internal (and occasionally external) rhythm, line-breaks. I’m obsessed with repetition and modulation When I’m structuring a piece of writing, I think about movements, motifs, key changes, middle 8s…
Do you listen to music while writing, editing, etc.?
Nothing with words in ever. And sometimes I find it very difficult to listen even to anything instrumental: patterns distract me from the patterns I’m making.
Is there one particular novel or piece of writing you wrote that was directly influenced by a piece of music?
For Seed, my digital work, which is available to read online for free I commissioned a soundtrack for my adaptation of the work for performance. It’s not so much music as manipulated ambient sound. I loved working with sound and I’d like to do more work with sound artists/musicians. (If you are a musician/sound artist and would like to collaboratively mess around with words/text, yes please tweet or DM me! Or contact me via the form on my website)
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Lots of experimental electronic music, especially by women. I guess the composer most people have heard of is the British composer Delia Derbyshire, because she worked for the BBC and wrote the Dr Who theme tune, but I particularly love Laurie Spiegel, Pauline Oliveros, and Eliane Radigue.
I also love Vicky Langan’s Open Air experimental slot at Dublin Digital Radio.
Musically, what’s your guilty pleasure (or is there such a thing)?
I have three stages of drunk:
- ranting about publishing.
- telling you about that ‘amateur’ movie of At Swim Two Birds I’ll make one day around the streets of Dublin with a handheld camera and people I know who have no idea I’ve already cast them.
- making you listen to playlists of French yé-yé pop from the 60s.
Joanna Walsh is the author of seven books including the digital work, seed-story.com. Her latest book, Break.up, was published by Semiotext(e) and Tuskar Rock in 2018. Her writing has been widely published in anthologies, newspapers and journals including The Dalkey Archive’s Best European Fiction, Granta Magazine, gorse, The Stinging Fly, The Guardian, The New Statesman, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She is a UK Arts Foundation fellow, and the founder of #readwomen, described by the New York Times as “a rallying cry for equal treatment for women writers”.
Derek Flynn runs Writing.ie's SongBook blog, and is an Irish writer and musician. He has a Masters in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin. He’s been published in a number of publications, including The Irish Times, and his fiction was featured in 'Surge', an anthology of new Irish writing published by O’ Brien Press with the aim of showcasing “the very best of the next generation of Irish authors”. Online he can be found at his writing/music blog – ‘Rant, with Occasional Music’ – and on Twitter as @derekf03