I have spent much of the last three days suffering from a bout of writer’s block. There are several half-written posts in a blog folder on my desktop. They are ideas that I have spent a lot of time on, but ultimately belong to another day. After glancing over at my DVD collection, I started to think about my old cure for writer’s block: Pink Floyd’s Pulse.
Anyone who has ever tried writing long enough knows how frustrating writer’s block can be. Stress, uninspired ideas, wandering concentration, and infinite distractions can all play a role in obstructing your piece. I have always found it to be helpful to turn off the television and just listen to music. Sometimes silence can be very useful in clearing my head, but the sound of Pink Floyd has proven to be my most reliable cure for writer’s block.
When I was in college I frequently listened to film scores and played concert DVDs as background music whenever I wrote papers late at night. I am sure my neighbors and family hated when I wrote at 2:30 AM… back when I thought all-nighters were good ideas.
Given that I never seriously listened to music until U2’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was released in 2004, my music selection was limited. At the time I purchased a lot of concert DVDs and live albums. They were the best way for me to catch up on the careers of bands that I had neglected for the previous nineteen years.
Despite some questionable listening choices from the time period, my concert DVD collection has held up. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ High Grass Dogs, U2’s Rattle and Hum, Audioslave’s Live In Cuba, and Eric Clapton’s Live At Montreux, and the Live 8 compilation set were a few favorites that were played on a loop.
The DVD that I played most often was Pink Floyd’s Pulse. The live cuts frequently allowed me to relax and focus and be a cure for writer’s block. It remains an unlikely source of comfort and concentration.
Released in 1995, Pulse (stylized on the album cover as p-u-l-s-e) knocked off Hootie & The Blowfish’s Cracked Rear View from the top spot of the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. The album captured the 1994 European leg of Pink Floyd’s Division Bell Tour. The tour was the last for Pink Floyd, who were without Roger Waters while promoting The Division Bell.
The DVD itself was not released until 2006. Pulse is divided into two discs. The first contains songs from The Division Bell and selections from different parts of the band’s career. The second (and best) part of Pulse is loaded with the entirety of The Dark Side Of The Moon, “Wish You Were Here,” a virtuoso performance of “Comfortably Numb,” and “Run Like Hell.”
During my vacation to London last year, I rediscovered the beauty of “Us And Them.” Even though I have listened to the song countless times, the cut from Pulse sounded fresh and exciting. The sudden newness of “Us And Them” allowed me to be transported by an old favorite for the first time in a while. Since then, it has become a frequent choice of mine when I am looking to relax.
The most enduring highlight of the DVD is the band’s performance of “Great Gig In The Sky.” If there is one moment on Pulse (or any concert video), that forces you to stop what you are doing, it is this one.
Backing vocalists do not always get a moment in the spotlight. None have dropped jaws more than Sam Brown’s unbelievable performance on “Great Gig In The Sky.” After her initial solo, Brown flat out unleashes the raw power of her vocals at the two-minute mark. Not only did Brown invigorate drummer Nick Mason, even the normally stoic David Gilmour glanced over from his steel guitar perch as she sang.
With a 145-minute running length, Pulse is not a crisp concert video. The psychedelic style of Pink Floyd allows for the band to be a cure for writer’s block in a way that many rock bands could not be. Pop songs can be great listens, but they tend to be more of a distraction than useful background music for writing.
Pink Floyd placed an emphasis on sonic and visual beauty that allows one to step back and appreciate the art that is unfolding before you. The correct music can give anyone the ability to retreat from a clouded mindset that distracts from writing. It is enough to clear your head and help return your focus. Even after struggling with my focus for three days, just thinking of the DVD was enough to spark some inspiration.
This collection of songs has served me well for almost twelve years. Whether it is the iconic chords on “Wish You Were Here” or the jazzy drumming on “Money,” the music of Pulse remains my unlikely cure for writer’s block and the soundtrack to my writing.
www.flatcircleblog.com is a Philadelphia pop-culture blog that covers television, music, podcasts, and movies. Follow along on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, or subscribe by e-mail to catch all posts and conversations.