The Inherent Music of Storytelling by Janine Donoho

Dancing with my veil

Dancing with my veil

Our brains on music

Our brains on music

“Music creates order out of chaos: for rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent, melody imposes continuity upon the disjointed, and harmony imposes compatibility upon the incongruous.” –Yehudi Menuhin

Melodic impulse suffuses our lives. We’re creatures of rhythm, beginning with biological cadence—the rush and wash of our mother’s blood sustains us. Our emotional responses to music go deeper yet.

First as inquisitive child, then dancer and choreographer, and finally as storyteller, aural patterns enrich my existence. When I discovered Bach, especially as interpreted by Yo-Yo Ma, his suites blended with breath and heartbeat, freeing me to move into relaxed openness where creativity thrives. Count this as therapy on many levels.

Different musical patterns stimulate our brain’s emotional, motor, and creative areas. Yet generalizations that the right brain equates with creativity and the left, logic, have proven to be an oversimplification. Better to visualize different parts of our brain lighting up dependent upon pitch, volume, tonality, and rhythm.

Colors of music

Colors of music

Now ponder the secondary effects of music on involuntary responses. Our vision, language, and memory align to tuneful variations. This torrent generates the subjectivity of our song choices. I won’t even get into how our unique chemistry transforms those reactions.

The one hardwired response? Emotion. The basic distinction between overtly sad and happy tunes affects us. As we age, those effects increase.

So while Mary McLaughlin’s “Sealwoman/Yundah” provided a cadence to strive for in Soundings: Water Elemental, the piece may—or may not—elicit the same response in you. How successful my writing proves to be in reaching that pinnacle? I leave that to you, dear readers.

How does music elevate your life? What are your current favorites?

Music and our brains

Music and our brains

Skirt dance.

Skirt dance.

Zils and the dancer.

Zils and the dancer.

Where We Are Now by Janine M. Donoho

Memories can be triggered by scent, sound, and touch–basically any sensory input. Or we can find we’ve lost a vital link when we need it most. Having experienced both ends of the spectrum, I’ve learned it helps to absorb where I am now.

A stunning Irish setter named Harold comes to mind. Upon release from the van, he repeatedly leaped straight into the air. Once he discharged sheer exuberance, he shot off into the intoxicating unknown stretching before him. Harold never looked back to see where he started. Not once. Okay, he was Dog and lived in the moment. I get the difference.

During last year’s escapade to Malaysia with the fabulous Ying, who served as tour guide and hunter-gatherer extraordinaire, none of those breathless lost moments reared their shaggy heads. You know the ones. They unexpectedly flare up in foreign environs where language skills fall flat. We experienced two super malls that elicited ‘turn-to-see-where-you-start’ flashes. Queen’s Mall in Penang proved an easy warm-up to the monstrous edifice of Mid Valley Kuala Lumpur. We could still be wandering the parking levels there. Instead we memorized where we started.

Being present or ‘in the moment’ may come across as new agey. Yet why not try it? I’ve wallowed in the past to the point where anthropology courses offered a great fit. I’ve also hyper-anticipated events, then missed what was right in front of me. These experiences count as warm up phases to the idea of now.

Mistborn Trilogy Comes

During months of travel through ancient lands, I learned the tough way to turn and study where my trek began. Many landscapes in Europe, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey and North Africa are laid out in medieval fashion. You can wander for hours before stumbling onto a familiar place. This turns out to be especially true after long ferry, train or bus rides when your brain’s in freefall and language skills falter. Breathing helps.

Of course, now I plant myself in my writing chair nearly every day. Yes, I still sink into story, which takes me elsewhere–and follow gladly. However as I revisit my MISTBORN world, wending my way through avenues and topographies I designed, I find it’s good to look around and take note of where I begin. Sometimes it even works.

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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