Daily Archives: April 10, 2012

Cue Music

Book Meme 2012

Question 2: Books I’d give a theme song to

Now this is a weird one for me. Perhaps, as much as I love and live through music, I have not a musical mind, for I never think of such when it comes to books. As a result, I have had to put a great deal of thought into this, and I have only come to scattered conclusions.

Thought #1:

Some texts are like dead leaves without music. Allow me to state the obvious and then expound. Songs are almost always more powerful when sung than when spoken. Why this is, I do not know, but several years back I had a revelation. I grew up with the poem “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes, and I never liked it. Then I had the honor of hearing Loreena McKennit’s rendition. Suddenly I loved the piece. For me, it took music to give the story vitality.

J.R.R. Tolkien (will I get through any book question without mentioning this man?), Bryan Jacques, and George MacDonald often have songs written out within their texts, and I have amused myself by trying to sing them. My only vaguely successful attempt was my childhood habit of singing the Misty Mountains song from The Hobbit to the tune of Greensleeves.

Does this sort of thing count as a soundtrack? I do not think it does, but it is worth noting.

Thought #2:

Soundtracks seem to serve two purposes in films. My friends who know more about film and film critique may know of more, but I am rather ignorant in this. Anyhow, one purpose is to influence the mood of a film, to sway the audience with the music. How I wish I could do this with my stories! If I could inflict music on the reader… aw, who am I kidding? I would probably irritate the poor folks and drive them away.

The second purpose of a soundtrack is to give aural cues. Hear that creepy theme? Be prepared for something jumping out at the protagonists! Hear the quickening pace of the music? Here comes the chase-scene. Even characters have their own themes, and so the viewer knows, often unconsciously, what to expect.

How to apply this to books… I cannot think of any book that tells a story where this could not conceivably be useful. Perhaps, though, the more conventional books, the books with patterns that we recognize, would benefit the most. I have a harder time thinking of George MacDonald’s Lilith with a theme song than I do Brian Jacques Mossflower.

Thought #3:

Music can be a hindrance. I have watched films where the music distracted from the story. I have also seen films where I, personally, did not like the music, and therefore it irritates me. I had a recent discussion with a fellow blogger on the soundtrack of “Ladyhawke,” because that is one that grates on me, but that she enjoys. If I liked the story of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, but it was accompanied by music I disliked, my appreciation for the book might be damaged.

I mention this simply to suggest that adding a soundtrack to something is not always positive. At this point it should be clear that I have thought far too seriously and too long on this topic. Onwards!

Thought #4:

By now you are wondering if I am ever going to answer the actual question.

If I could get a skilled, thoughtful and versatile composer (preferably Bear McCreary), I would give a soundtrack to Tales of the Brothers Grimm.

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


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