A Short Essay of The Influence of Music within Books, Writing and More
I, these days find rooms can sometimes be too quiet, so I was listening to some music on Spotify that got me suddenly thinking of music, film and books. Not least because as I was randomly looking, up came an option called “Reading Soundtrack”. It is theme tunes and incidental music to listen to whilst reading. I have found it fills the room with nice music, but with no words, all just instrumental, which means writing and reading can still be concentrated on, and yet there’s now no complete silence. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I like complete and utter, blissful silence or I need it to concentrate at a different level on something. Other times, it is just good to have a music filled room and get on with things so the mind doesn’t wander onto a million other thoughts. I like music in general, we all have particular songs that generate different memories and emotions or can conjure something quite exquisite up in the imagination. Music is a powerful medium, whether it is instrumental or is in song. We all have favourite pieces and those pieces that just get on our nerves. Music can conjure up memories for some; sometimes bad, sometimes sad, sometimes deep joy, sometimes a brightness. We also have pieces that we know so well, that it can drift into the room and into our subconscious that we can work and have a music-filled room without it being a distraction.
So, the Spotify Reading Soundtrack has 54 (at time of writing) relaxing tunes on it. To name a few books that became films and have music on this soundtrack – it begins with The Boy Who Flew Away, there’s also Mocking Jay, Jane Eyre, Christopher Robin, Spiderman, A Testament of Youth, Lord of the Rings, The Maze Runner, Game of Thrones, Schindler’s List, Band of Brothers, Geisha, Cinderella, The Imitation Game, Cloud Atlas and many others. All are peaceful enough to use whilst reading or writing. It really is worth a listen to. I cannot claim to reading all the books, nor to have seen all the films that are mentioned in this soundtrack, but they are all peaceful and have an air of calm about them. There’s no need to concentrate on the music, instead concentrate on the work you do and the music does the rest as it penetrates through the mind, but without piercing into it and envelopes you in a peaceful embrace of music notes without you having to think of it. All you have to do is think about the real task in hand. I have written short stories (3 got published), all with music on at various points in the process, I have written a few blogs with music on and done the more mundane things such as ironing with it on. You just find what is right for you and the tunes and songs that you most enjoy.
In September 2018 I wrote a blog about Music within Books and Music to Die For off the back of a panel I had watched at the Morecambe and Vice Festival. It shown that musical influences are being used more in books. More than what I had really thought about.
Alan Parks uses 70s music such as Small Faces and David Bowie for the cultural scene in 1970’s Glasgow.
Joe Thomas has music references that are used to categorise different parts of his book in some ways, for themes of political, joy and melancholy that are infused into his first novel, “Paradise City”, which is set in Sao Paolo.
Hugh Fraser has music in Stealth that is set in the 1960’s that create the right atmosphere for the time period of the club, especially, that features within his book.
Joanne Harris has music in BlueEyedBoy, which gets mentioned at the beginnings of each chapter, which sets a certain tone.
The above list just names a few. There is music mentioned in children’s books, young adult books, adult books. There are numerous non-fiction books about music as a genre or about its creators, whether it is the artist, the composer, singer etc.
Music can play a vital part within some books, in setting the scene and/or atmosphere. There are many films that are written from books. Within many of the films there is music throughout, it creates a sense of time and place sometimes. Take a period piece, say, any of Jane Austen’s books for example, there are many dances within the season. Music gets mentioned and watching the tv dramatisation or film versions and there it is as it would have been. So, sometimes music can be very deliberate, would be a bit odd to read about a dance or watch one without hearing the music (since this was before the era of silent disco of course). Other music can be used as incidental music or to create a certain mood or to build up tension. Done well in film/tv or written well in books, it can have a good desired effect and can fill the imagination even more as the mind’s eye for the written word creates the scene or when watching, can tense up the body and have you on the edge of your seat or make you think how lovely a scene is. This can also be true of the stage. Of course in a musical, there’s music and song to convey the story, it’s obvious, but take plays for example too, okay there’s not often song, but sometimes there can be music, to create the atmosphere and/or a scene or give even more of the sense of a time era, whether it is past or present. Often, but not always, music is used in the form of characters listening to a radio, so it can also be used as an activity within that character’s day. The music however always appears to be carefully selected, so it fits and that’s the same for film and tv.
In both the written and the spoken word, music can create different emotions, when done well. When it isn’t done well, however, it can become too much or so grinding that the viewer no longer feels the flow of the music and acting working in harmony, or reader can either become too bogged down in the music that the atmosphere is lost.
The thing is however, that music spans into everything. Music is a universal language. For decades there have been music festivals showcasing all sorts of genres, from pop to rock and classical to folk and can be read about and listened to on so many platforms. Whatever the genre, the art form, it has this innate ability to partnership with it all to enhance a story or be a medium inwhich the story itself is told in. It has become such an important part of global culture within everything we watch or read or do. Music is many things to many people and has so many topics within it, that it can present itself on the stage and within books as part of the story that is being told. Music itself is a story being told. Music itself is subjective, but then, so are the books you read, the tv and films you watch and the stage musicals and plays you see, which also assists its ability to be within every other art form too.
I will digress slightly for a moment, take a painting or a photograph of an orchestra or just a solo piano or a guitar. We may not actually be able to hear the music being played – it’s a painting after all, but the majority of us know what these instruments sound like, so can imagine it, so even in something like a painting, music can sometimes still be part of the story being told.
When I think about it, all music tells a story within itself too, no matter the genre. Some time in the not too distant future I am going to return to music and tales and have an interview published with a particular musician and songwriter who’s style of music definitely tells a story, owing especially to the genre she composes within. I am not intending, not at the moment anyway, in branching out into music reviews, but it is a medium that crosses all art forms, including those I concentrate on within this blog.