Music is a powerful tool for writing. It's so helpful in setting the mood, getting your brain juices flowing, and drowning out any distracting background noise. It especially helps me tap into emotions I need for a scene. In my years of writing, I've found certain types of music to be more inspiring than others. For example, music with lyrics is more distracting than helpful. The best stuff I've found is film scores, but only scores that aren't too iconic or closely associated with a film. For example, I could never write to the Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings soundtracks; I'd just see scenes from the movie in my head the whole time. Others I've tried but had to pass on were the Batman scores and Pirates of the Caribbean.
My top 5 writing soundtracks are from films I'm less familiar with, or have only seen maybe once. I have to be able to disassociate the music with the story it's from, so I can adapt it to my own work. Sometimes, when I go back and read stuff I wrote, I can hear the music I listened to playing in my head--pretty awesome! Makes me feel like I'm reading a movie script. =)
1. Edward Scissorhands (quirky and whimsical)
2. Pearl Harbor (this is my favorite; I wrote my entire first novel to this one--so emotional and versatile!)
3. Requiem for a Dream (creepy and intense)
4. Forrest Gump (a little slower, very atmospheric)
5. Braveheart (epic and energetic)
Other than these, almost everything by Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer, or Danny Elfman is great writing music. I really like John Williams, but most of his scores are too iconic. But c'mon--you can't beat the Jurassic Park theme song! Ah, I can hear it now...
PS. The best way I've found to listen to music is through Pandora; I just put in these composers or films, and voila! An entire station of both that music and songs similar to it. This helps break up the monotony of listening to one score over and over again, and also helps me discover new great writing music.
I'm always on the prowl for new writing music. In the comments, let me know if you write to music, and if so, what your favorites are!