Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

“I listen to arpeggios when I need help moving along in my writing. An arpeggio is a musical chord drawn out, note by note, ascending or descending, like a spinning wheel of notes. Arpeggios slow down time, letting our ears isolate and identify each note in a chord. And yet, when you listen to fast tempo music that contains arpeggios, your ear doesn’t know exactly what to do. The notes are going quickly but the chords are moving slowly. Listening to compositions by Philip Glass—arguably the world’s greatest living arpeggio fanatic—gives the illusion of escaping the normal properties of time as it shifts from one sequence to the next. Writers know how to arpeggio. We isolate certain components—setting, character, conflict, theme—and get these notes moving at a tempo. We repeat with slight variations. We complicate. We put these notes into conversation with one another, make them interact. When I listen to Glass’s violin concertos, which are simultaneously fast and slow, I’m reminded of how complicated components are able to work together. I listen, then I write.”
— Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, author of Sounds Like Titanic (Norton, 2019)

Writer Photo: 
Writer Photo Credit: 
Vanessa Borer
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  • February 28, 2019