The music of love. The love of music. Nothing gets you swooning like hearing a favorite song on the radio, or while sitting in a restaurant—or anywhere—during a moment with someone special. Is this just imaginary romanticism talking? Science says no.
In my endeavor to come up with a subtitle for my third series (yes, third one this year), I’ve been doing searches studying the connections between music, science, and romance. I was spurred on by a line from one of the reviews from the first title, The Phoenix Syndrome, that described it as “a captivating story of science, music, intimacy, and love.” (Thank you, Nikki T., for your enlightening, five-star review) The reviewer also suggested, as I had been urged by multiple other sources, that there should be a sequel.
Well, there will be. But first I need to explore—and capture—the apparent “magic” I created (unwittingly) by combining three seemingly unrelated entities: music, science, and romance.
So, I went surfing. I came across a 2012 article on CNN.com by Dorrine Mendoza that blew me away. She describes a Spotify survey that concluded music may be as sexually arousing as touch. Mendoza states, “Respondents said music playing in the background is 40% more likely to turn them on than the touch or feel of their partner.”
The study’s author, music psychologist Daniel Mullensiefen, determined the top two songs winning this esteemed designation were the theme from Dirty Dancing, Time of My Life, and Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing. Mullensiefen states that “music activates the same pleasure centers of the brain that respond to rewards such as food, drugs or sex.”
Hmm. I guess there is something to this after all.
Of course, I’ve always known music as a strong emotional trigger. I’m that annoying person who turns up the radio when a favorite song comes on and belts it out at the top of my lungs—no matter who’s in the car. I have music around me all the time—all the time—thanks to Pandora and to my car’s Sirius radio. When I write, I adjust the music to the tone of the scene I am writing. I actually grew up in a musically inclined family, as all three of my brothers were involved in numerous bands in their younger years.
How many people can say they know every, single, lyric to every, single, Beatles song ever recorded? That would be me.
I’ve been calling The Phoenix Syndrome a “rockstar romance” because the hero is a drummer in a heavy metal band. But it’s more than that. The heroine is involved in scientific research, and becomes an unlucky casualty of side effects from a drug her lab is testing. She and my drummer boy fall in love. So, there it is: music, science, and romance. I believe there’s even more to the magic of the connection than that.
When I wrote the part just prior to the actual meeting of hero and heroine, I got so swept up in its emotional intensity that I went into a sort of writer’s trance. I finished writing the scene in tears. It describes the hero, during a cancer benefit concert in memory of his late ex-wife, telling the entire story of their journey—with nothing more than drums. And I believe this scene may well have set the stage in my book for connecting at least two of the three elements: music and love. Here’s an excerpt:
Tristan commenced a drum solo like none I’d ever imagined. I remained transfixed in an emotional coma throughout the entire ten minutes, my eyes riveted to this amazing man. A man whose passion spoke to a deeper, secret part of me I thought had dried up and died long ago. In a language of rhythm only a musician could fully understand, Tristan told the beautiful, sad story of his brief time with a woman he loved from the depths of his soul.
At first, the soft pattering of sticks on snare and toms and triangle expressed a playful, bright beginning. Gradually, cymbals and bass drum added substance, growing into a symphony of pure percussion. When he attacked the crash symbols, it was clear this crescendo symbolized the blinding, glorious blossoming of their love. But the heady high didn’t last nearly long enough.
Darker tones crept in, a rumble starting low from dual bass drums, quickly strengthening until they shook the air, reaching deep into my chest with palpable vibration. Ominous, foreboding. The cancer—Serpent C—had made its insidious presence known. A shiver ran between my shoulder blades, and fresh tears stung my eyes. How can this man tell a passionate love story with no notes, no melody, no lyrics? Yet he was, and the tale unfolded as vividly as if I were witnessing it on a screen.
In an unbounded crusade of drums and cymbals, Tristan expressed how they had waged the battle, together. Two hands, two feet, working together in perfect synchrony. But the beat maintained by one hand gradually faltered, fading, even as the other struggled to carry the rhythm for both. We all knew how this was to end. She was losing.
Finally, with stuttered, rapidly weakening pulses, one stick shuddered briefly on the snare before lying, lifeless, across the surface.
For a moment of shocked silence, the rhythm died.
But a single heartbeat played on, softly at first, then growing stronger. One bass drum thudded, steady, hypnotic, but tragically, alone.
It was then I realized the story had reached beyond my musician’s heart. Everyone around me felt the passion in this solo.
Is there a connection between music, science, and romance? I believe so. And I have faith in the magic of this connection to guide me toward writing the next musically-themed romance with a scientific twist. After all, the root word for music is “muse,” is it not?
I’m on the hunt for a fitting subtitle for a series featuring the magical connection between these three elements.
Suggestions are welcome.