Inspiration Through Music: Loreena McKennitt

Music is often about transportation. One moment, you are in your bedroom sitting in a chair. Then when the music starts, when the first notes grace the air, you suddenly find yourself somewhere miles away. It could be a place that doesn’t exist, your dream vacation spot, or even a nightmare. Writing has the same quality. When I begin a chapter on a first draft for a story, I need to be able to get lost inside of it. It helps me to concentrate on getting the whole thing down and not breaking away to edit things here and there. Finding the right kind of music that can do this while writing can sometimes be hard. It has to reflect the atmosphere of the story, create the right mood, and fit with your characters. If there is any musician who has discovered a talent for teleporting us from our safe homes into ancient mystical landscapes, it must be Loreena McKennitt.

Loreena McKennitt is a Canadian world music songstress. My mom introduced me to McKennitt’s music. Mom had purchased the 1997 The Book of Secrets album and often listened to it in the car while we did errands in town. Right away, I was entranced by the mystical tunes from the first track, “Prologue.” I felt as if I was in another world entirely, a seamless move to a place beyond comprehension. There is an almost ancient pull to her voice. It sends you time-traveling back to a simpler and strikingly different time. These are some of her songs that never fail to transport me to another place and time:

The Mummer’s Dance: I’ve always envisioned this being journey music. Whether traveling by horse, train, on foot, or by caravan, it’s the start of a brand new adventure. I can also imagine good friends accompanying the main character. They laugh, share memories, and dream of the things to come. The journey is also a party, a way for these characters to catch up with one another, to share the stories of things that have occurred in the years that they were apart. It’s good feelings all around. It’s a chance to appreciate the beauty of nature around them and to forget the dark things in their futures just for one night.

Caravanserai: Like ‘The Mummer’s Dance’, I get the impression that the character is traveling. But in this song, they are unaccompanied and ride in the night alone like they have done many times before. The beginning starts out very calm and serene, with the mixture of string instruments being plucked. At the 2:20 mark, Loreena begins to sing, her gorgeous  soprano voice lilting the words faintly. The beat steadily gets stronger as the music progresses and you can imagine the character’s pace becoming faster as they travel further and further from all they know. They are moving toward something uncertain, something that could be a fantastic opportunity despite it’s foreignness. There is optimism in this song that makes it feel warm and brings a smile to one’s face.

Night Ride Across the Caucasus: The Caucasus is a region between Europe and Asia. It’s geologically and ecologically rich. The terrain is composed of forested mountains. Loreena’s lyrics in this song are gorgeous and enchanting. As you listen to them, you feel as though you could be traveling a road under the cover of night through this lush region. The further into the song you travel, you sense the historical importance of this place and how it’s beautiful wilderness has been preserved so well in the many years that have passed. There is something to be revered about this place.

Kecharitomene: Kecharitomene means “Full of Grace.” This song is instrumental but right from the beginning, you get a sense of being in a place that is both traditional and sacred. I feel as though this song speaks about being more in touch with nature around you. Being more in touch with our pasts and with each other. It’s about seeing the grace in ordinary things that we may take for granted. The character is just noticing these things and is just beginning to understand their importance.

The Gates of Istanbul: This song makes an appearance in Aequitas. Both Reid and Torrent visit Istanbul during their travels in my upcoming sequel to Vox. Oddly enough as well, they both have different reactions to it. Torrent is a seasoned traveler. He’s been around for longer and has been exposed to much more of different cultures in his time. Reid has stayed closer to home and the idea of being somewhere new and different is daunting and unsafe. But, to both of them, Istanbul is a city to respect and see the beauty of. If you watch the video that accompanies this music in the link, you’ll see some fairly amazing photos of the city and get a better idea of what my characters saw as they traveled there.

Skellig: This song already has a story that it’s telling if you listen to the lyrics. This is one of my favorite songs by Loreena McKennitt. It’s hard for me to translate exactly what it means to me. All I can really say is that I feel as though I’m falling away from everything I know when I hear it. The song puts you in the shoes of this monk that Loreena is singing about, shares with you his trials and tribulations. Freedom? I get a strong sense of it while listening to this. A desire for it in spite of time running out to get something done.

La Serenissima: Many years ago, I had an idea for a novel set in Venice. When I hear this song, I always imagine Venice. I imagine the waterways, the cool blue night falling over the city, and the ancient architecture slowly sinking beneath the water. There is a peace and calm in this song that I’ve always enjoyed and listening to it again eases my tensions. To be in a gondola, traveling down the little canals and beneath stone bridges in Venice would be a dream come true. For tonight,  all I need to do is close my eyes and I’m there. [EDIT: I wrote this and then discovered that La Serenissima was actually another name for The Republic of Venice. I knew there was some reason I’d picked that location for that book and this song to go with it…]

Prologue: This is one you have to listen to on your own. Shut your eyes, turn off the lights in the room, and just listen. There is rarely a song that can invoke such emotion and truly transport you such as the way this one does. This is on my top ten list.

Next week, I’ll be doing some time traveling as I leap back to my first soundtrack purchase several years ago and choose James Horner’s incredible compositions in A Beautiful Mind. I bought this CD when I was 13. I believe it is because of this album that my love for original score soundtracks began. I hold this one in particular up to the light as if it were the holy grail of all soundtracks. Yes. I know. I love this score. I don’t need to say it again. [I love it.]

Stay tuned for tomorrow when I make my Oven-Baked Caramel French Toast for my Cooking Adventure of the week!



2 thoughts on “Inspiration Through Music: Loreena McKennitt

  1. i love every song Loreena McKennitt has ever sang. My favorite is Dante’s Prayer – from The Book of Secrets… all of her songs are available to listen to on her site.

    your mom has a delicious taste in music

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