I had a college roommate who never turned her radio off. No exaggeration. She kept it on 24/7/52. Now, I like music, more than like it, which is kind of a requirement for a music major (my roommate majored in How To Host The Best Party, with a minor in How To Be Invited To The Most Parties ), but I didn't want to hear it every waking hour. Or the 9" black and white TV she'd turn on while listening to the radio. We lived in a room the size of a cereal box and all that noise crammed into it was like shoppers on Black Friday had invaded us. How she focused on studying is beyond...oh, wait. She didn't study. Didn't graduate either, but she did walk away with a P-A-R-T-Y degree. With honors.
While working on my first few books I listened to music as I wrote. I'd choose music that helped me sink into the emotions of the scene I was working on, get me in the mood for whatever I was putting my characters through. Nothing with vocals though. Listening to lyrics is too distracting - unless they're not in English and then I hum along or harmonize. A distraction not only to me, but to everyone with 50 yards of me.
Soundtracks are my favorite writing-with-music companions. They offer a gamut of emotions; tension, sorrow, elation, menace, regret, passion, anger. A few favorites that invoke the above:
For sultry scenes and dialogue, the Yo-Yo Ma recording of tango music does it for me.
Occasionally classical music gets added to my mix.
As much as I love music, lately I've traded headset for silence when I write. The silence voids distractions and forces me to focus on only what I'm creating that day. Singing sessions have been relegated to when I'm driving solo or on a Girl's Road Trip with my daughter (she's so forgiving!), partnering up with Billy Joel, Sting, Whitney Houston, Norah Jones or taking monumental leaps into the land of never-to-be-realized-in-this-lifetime and breaking out the Broadway musicals. Bernadette Peters and Kristin Chenoweth, have no fear, your jobs are not in danger!