I don't usually listen to music when I write, at least not lately. For awhile now my life has been loud and noisy and chaotic, and music often seems like just one more layer of noise and chaos. It's hard enough to get my mind into the writing place without a distraction like music. When I do listen to music, I'm rather picky about it - it needs to have a defined mood, and that mood has to fit the scene I'm working on. It can't have words, or at least not so many that they interfere with my ability to write words (some of you will understand this conflict, some will not).
While it's chaos and noise that drive me away from listening to music in general, it is actually those same elements that are driving me toward a soundtrack for this novel. Specifically, because my writing happens in fits and starts, fit in between other things, I wanted to find a way to get my brain to the writing place as quickly as possible, no matter where or when I was writing. I want the music to be a grounding force for me - a marker on the path that gets me oriented and moving forward.
Music also helps with other things - there's the aforementioned mood of a piece that can reflect and amplify the mood I want for my scene. Pairing the music to the setting or the style of the story, like a movie soundtrack, can help to anchor you within the world and remember how it should feel and sound. The energy of music can feed into the most tired of minds and propel them forward through clouds of fatigue.
I've also found another interesting use for music. To start my soundtrack, I'm assigning my major characters a theme song. This is helping me to three-dimensionalize them in ways I hadn't thought of before. For instance, my serial killer's theme song is Schism by Tool because the line "I know the pieces fit 'cause I watched them fall away" says exactly the right thing about her mental state. The second I realized that, I knew how to tell her story.
How do you use music in your work?