You know that moment in a film or on TV when a really intense scene is being played out and the perfect music comes on just as everything kicks off and you can feel the drama prickling at your skin? I often try to replicate this feeling while reading books. When I can tell an intense and dramatic scene is coming up in the story I get my ipod classic out and try and find the right song to capture the mood. It’s like heaven when I get it right.
Sail – A favourite for intense scenes.
Listening to music makes my reading experience more cinematic and memorable. I am happy to read in silence and sometimes I prefer to do so, but in general I’m quite an audio driven person so it helps me get immersed in the world of the book when I add music. When I listen to that song again I’ll remember that chapter as clear as day. I form close associations between the things I hear and the things I read. I used this as a tool for my exams a few moths ago when I ended up combining music with Shakespeare scenes so I could memorise quotes.
Florence + The Machine
Admittedly I often turn to the same group of artists and songs when I’m constructing a book soundtrack on the fly, which means that my book-music associations are shift-able but it also means they are yo some extent webbed together. For example, the sacrifice made by Character A in Book A becomes connected to the death of Character B in Book B because I associate the same music with both deaths. My favourite go-to artists include the likes of Einaudi, Alex Clare, Florence + The Machine and The XX.
I love it when authors post their own choice of soundtrack for their books and share the songs they listen to while writing, but I generally look at them after reading their book. My favourite thing about checking out the soundtrack authors select is that I can compare it with my own. Sometimes the vibe they were going for is slightly different from the one I engineered through my choice of music. That difference opens up a new way to interpret the book. For example, they may have chosen music from the period they set the book in while I listened to modern music. They may have chosen a big orchestral track for that epic battle scene but I may have chosen a rock song. This subtle difference in interpretation reminds me that there are many potential aural manifestations of ‘epic’. It also brings up the topic of how the writer intended the scene to come across while writing it versus how I chose to interpret it while reading it.
i also like to compare between different readers’ soundtracks. I definitely think an interesting discussion could come out of comparing people’s personal book soundtracks. We could even compare which sections people chose to back with music and which they were happy to read in silence. As I said earlier, when a scene feels like it’s getting intense from my perspective I get the music out, but other people may have different triggers for what let’s them know a scene they are going to really want to get immersed in is coming up. Using the ‘epic battle’ scenario again: Person A may love battle scenes and want to be immersed in the moment so they find a tune, Person B may not be very interested in battle scenes and just want to skim through it and get to the next section of the book so they won’t bother with finding some music to go with the moment.
I imagine a lot of careful planning goes into creating the soundtracks used in films and on TV. Where music is placed and the tone it creates are important to how the overall product works. The people that work on films try to choose how you feel and interpret a scene at each given moment through audio elements as much as they do through visual elements. My favourite film for using music at the moment is The Great Gatsby. With books you get to make those decisions for yourself. I love having that freedom because it let’s you interact with the book at a creative level on your own terms.