“If music be the food of life, play on,” urged Shakespeare’s Duke Orsino, assuaging his sorrow over his thwarted love for Olivia with his court musicians. Music affects our whole body whether we’re conscious of it or not. Of course, many of us use that influence deliberately to fuel the muse. When it comes to writing erotica, sexy music helps. Whether we’re trying to get ourselves into the mood to write or to find the heart of a character, music can provide a short cut to the answers.
I often find that a story gets attached to a certain singer or type of music. My last novel had a lot of drumming infused through it, musicians like Gabrielle Roth, Layne Redmond and Glen Velez, whom the urban shaman at its center would have responded to quite readily.
When it comes to romance, there’s a lot to choose from. I recently wrote a story for the upcoming AMBROSIA anthology edited by Jesse Blair Kensington and I found that the best spark came from the matchless pipes of Etta James. No one captures the exquisite pain of love and longing quite like James. Whether it’s the plaintive heartbreak of “All I Could Do Was Cry” or the sublime joy of “At Last,” James urges you to share every emotion as her voice glides over the notes effortlessly.
I also like playful sexy music and one of the best in that realm is the amazing Tori Amos. Her music explores the sensual from so many different angles, taking on a wild array of personas who explore love, sex, heartbreak and joy from completely different points of view. I love the vulnerable and jaded narrator of “Leather” who sings, “I can scream as loud as your last one / but I can’t claim innocence,” and the urgent thrill of “Raspberry Swirl,” with its admonition “if you want inside her, well / you better make her raspberry swirl.”
Sometimes you want to capture that sense of longing, however, and there’s few songs that capture the mood better than Lucinda Williams’ “Right in Time.” The lyrics alone convey efficiently and explicitly that yearning for an absent lover, imagining his touch:
I take off my watch and my earrings
My bracelets and everything
Lie on my back and moan at the ceiling
Oh my baby
But it’s really Williams’ voice when she moans that line, “Oh my baby,” that nails the feeling perfectly. Her desire is tangible, the hunger practically leaps into your skin. Great stuff – oh yeah!