A book through music

Written by Ayesha Dominica Singh | Updated: Nov 30 2009, 02:31am hrs
Ambience: that feeling or mood associated with a particular place, person, or thing. For after all, what would nature be without the burnished copper of autumn Or a home be without the smell of mamas cooking While many of us create an ambience to enhance an experience, authors have brought out an innovative idea to enhance the reading of a booka soundtrack to a book, which serves none other than the purpose of becoming a texture, an ambience to the book.

Why a book soundtrack

Brad Meltzer, the #1 New York Times bestselling author, has accompanied his latest thriller, The Book of Lies, with a soundtrack. Called The Book of Lies Companion Soundtrack, it contains classical and contemporary selections like Mahlers Symphony No 7 II. Nachtmusik (Night Music)-Allegro moderato, Wagners Parsifal-Prelude and Robert Ellis Orralls The Book of Lies as well as REMs Superman. Meltzer explains, I thought it was just different, and would give readers a new way to appreciate a book. While a novel may not really need a soundtrack, whenever I write a book, theres a soundtrack in my headinfluencing, inspiring, and nudging me forward. Heres where I finally get to share it with everyone else.

While the concept of a soundtrack to a book may seem almost presumptuous, David Gutowski, who began the music blog Largehearted Boy, which features daily free and legal music downloads as well as news from the worlds of music, literature, and pop culture, started his blogs Book Notes series because he often discovered music he liked through author interviews: I found that so many authors connected music to their books (either directly in the text or indirectly), that I had to start the series. These soundtracks to books humanise the authors, and brings them closer to their readers as almost everyone loves music. Hopefully a books music playlist will give readers insight into both the book and the author.

To Arlene Fernandes, an avid reader, It sounds rather innovative and interesting and should take the reading experience to the next level.

For instance, a chilling soundtrack for a horror book could be better than watching a horror movie. It can get you more involved in a book if the songs are right, otherwise it could distract you.

Inspiring ideas

But what could inspire a book soundtrack While Meltzer replies, The book, of course, Gutowski on the other hand mentions several approaches that authors have taken. Some have discussed the songs that appear in their book. Others choose to write about their characters favourite tunes, sometimes in the voice of the character. Others discuss the music they listened to while writing their book. Suren Abreu, environmentalist and author of the book Befriending the Earth, believes the inspiration for a soundtrack could just be an authors perception of atmosphere.

For reader Aditya Paul, musical inspiration depends on what kind of a book it is. Most good books are absorbing enough. The soundtrack would have to match the book and the writing style. Besides authors, musicians too have taken an initiative and have devoted their albums to an author or to a book. Tom Waits low-key jazz and blues album Alice is more like musings on Lewis Carrolls Alice in Wonderland and what it means. From the Discworld is an instrumental album, which contains music that is meant to be background music for the Terry Pratchett novels.

Tuning in or out

To most of us, the reading of a book suffices with or without an atmosphere. Maybe the falling rain or a cup of hot coffee adds to the experience but is a soundtrack necessary, will this idea catch on or will it be another concept sacrificed on the altar of acceptance Gutowski says that ever since he started his series, The NYTs Paper Cuts blog as well as the Penguin publishing house have started a similar series. So I can only assume that these book playlists help sales and will become even more common in the future. Several authors have told me they are often approached at readings and e-mailed about their music playlists .

Its a mixed bag in India. While some feel that the idea of a book soundtrack will not survive long in the Indian market, others assume if it were presented to a reader in the proper way it just may catch on. Fernandes remarks that it depends on the concept. Piracy would dent the sales of the album, so the author would need to offer the album either free or at a nominal rate with the book. Paul thinks that it would work for book lovers looking for something new.

Frankly, if I needed music while reading, Id put on my own choice. I know what creates the right atmosphere for me. If the soundtrack does not appeal to me, Id find it distracting at least and repelling at most. It might even lead to me not reading the book, adds Abreu.

Graphics designer Shaun Coutinho talks about how a book soundtrack might ruin ones reading experience more than enhance it. It might even be distracting to listen to music while reading a book, as some of the senses are diverted and one might not be able to concentrate on the storyline. Timing the music to what one is reading, availability of music players, format of the music for playback on these players, all might pose a complexity.

Marketing gimmick

Gutowski mentions that The Wall Street Journal called his blogs Book Notes series a coveted marketing spot for authors. Review copies pile up in my mail every day, so I can only assume that publishers and authors see value in creating a playlist for their book. Meltzer feels that everything is a marketing gimmick. But that doesnt mean it cant be used to enhance the reading experience, he adds.

The debate: as some want to give it a go before thrashing it and others completely veto this notion of a book having a soundtrack, as they prefer silence while reading.