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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Music Sets the Mood

by Rain Trueax

Don't you love how music comes to you when you need it-- but didn't know you did! 

I was sitting at my desk trying to decide what to write for this blog. And then along came a desire to hear the song Garryowen, which I have a copy of on my hard drive. I had used it in a book where the hero was a cavalry officer, who had served in the American West but also during the Civil War. It's a kind of star-crossed lover story

The music that came to my mind was connected with George and Libby Custer and what I can't help but think of, along with my own book, where the cavalry life was a key part of their story. 

After that desire to hear the song, I went looking for it on YouTube and what a great version I found. It has the original lyrics along with paintings of the cavalry in action during what would have been my hero's time in it.


Using music in a book can be tricky-- especially when it's modern. I wanted to use some lyrics once for a contemporary book and found that the permission, for only a couple of lines, would cost me more than the book could ever have hoped to make-- change of plans. It's too bad, as music is a big part of our lives. Songs tend to take us back to a particular moment in our lives. But it is what it is.

It's different though when it's an old song, one in public domain. I didn't need the lyrics to Garryowen. I hoped readers would know the melody.  When I think about it, that scene comes back, to me and i can hear the music playing as it would have been at their ball.

He had nearly forgotten the dance would end and Belle would return but then there she was. “This song was requested for you specifically, Captain Phillips,” she said with a smile as she put her hand out for him.

When he heard it start up, he understood why, Garryowen, the fighting song of many a soldier. Some regarded it as an ending song as well. He swept her into his arms and began the quickstep that was best danced to it. They spun around the dance floor, this time with no chance to talk. He realized as they danced that others had stepped aside. They were in the center of the floor and then they were the only dancers. When the music ended, the others applauded and Belle laughed.

“You look at little stunned, Captain,” she said as they left the floor.
“Custer has claimed that for his Seventh Cavalry.”
“Does that mean no one else may claim it?”
“No, but do you know it’s a drinking song?”
“Actually no... but I did know about Custer. Miles Koegh actually claimed it first.”
“How did you know that?”
She smiled. “Well, don’t tell anyone but I did happen to have met General Custer once.”
“You know him too, then and it’s why you said ahhh.”
He smiled. “Only on an acquaintance level. He is known as a lady’s man.”
“Really? I thought his wife was delightful.”
“Did you know them through your husband?”
“Please, I’d rather not talk about that.” 

When I reread the scene, I wished I had made the dance last longer as it does in my imagination. I can see them twirling around the floor, her in that long, beautiful gown, him booted and in uniform. Sometimes scenes can be stretched too far but where it comes to Garryowen, I don't think it can. 
There is another story about the song. It came from Libby's book. She described watching the 7th ride out for that last time, and how, as was Custer's way, he had the song being played by the regimental musicians. She said she watched as they disappeared into a swirl of dust. 
Real life often doesn't end as happily as romances always do. It's why I like romances. A great love story is however always a great love story.

Love Waits is the fourth of the Stevens family as they came to Oregon and settled into their new land-- three sisters and their mother.



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  2. Rain, this sounds like an interesting story. As for music setting the mood, I've listened to songs that spurred me to write when my creativity had slumped. I enjoyed your post and wish you God's best in your endeavors.

    1. thank you, Lauren. I've used a lot of music to inspire me and wish I could use more of it in contemporary books. I understand the why not but just a line or two :)

  3. Rain, I haven't put lyrics in my books but I've mentioned the titles. I listen to music when I'm at the computer. When I write, I listen to classical because anything with lyrics interferes with my concentration. When I do email, blogs, etc. I listen to an eclectic selection of popular music. Right now, I'm listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. I learned the hard way not to use a song title as a book title. There are dozens of books titled OUT OF THE BLUE so it's hard to stand out on Amazon. I love your post!

  4. I am that way with the music when writing, Caroline. I use western soundtracks to get inspired for some scenes like riding fast-- no lyrics. For Garryowen, it's best without the lyrics since they were from another culture. The melody though inspires me


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