I’ve always thought that if I was to write a book, I would include a song or two at the beginning of each chapter as a sort of soundtrack for the story. Music is an integral part of writing for me; I couldn’t begin to write a whole story without imagining it playing to some piece of music.
Sometimes, I begin to write a story because a certain song or piece of music inspired me: for example, an epic pirate adventure story was sparked by an excerpt from Die Moldau From My Country, Smetena; a runaway character inspired by The Box, Johnny Flynn. Someimes songs or artists hint at underlying themes or settings, such as the dark, urban, possibly future dystopian society that Burial’s lonely music conjures up; or the dreamlike, over-exposed world of Sufjan Stevens. If I write a story “to” a piece of music, I always feel like a person cannot truly read and understand that piece of writing without hearing the music aswell. Is this a failing on my part to convey the atmosphere and feeling of the scene through writing alone, without relying on another artist to create the mood? Or is it simply an enhancement to my writing, an added dimension?
I’ve also wondered whether it is only my understanding of the specific piece of music and the piece of writing that links the two so intrinsically in my mind: would an objective reader see the importance of the song Talk Show Host by Radiohead in the story I’ve just written? Or could they read the text without hearing the music, and not miss out on anything? Would hearing the music affect their view of the scene at all? I found that while reading The Host by Stephenie Meyer, I felt no compulsion to look up and listen to the songs she’d listed in the playlist at the end of the book. When I listened to the songs I already knew and had, I could sometimes see the connection between the music and the scene, but having a soundtrack didn’t really make reading it better. So perhaps the vitality of a piece of music for a piece of writing exists only in the writer’s head?
On the other hand, I’ve never really put a piece of music to a scene in a book I’ve read: I’ve always felt I might be misinterpreting what the author is trying to convey and that in subsequent readings I might figure out the real meaning. However, if I’d linked a song to the flawed version of the scene that I picked up the first time I read the text, I might end up with that version of the scene stuck in my head and not search for deeper messages. A bit weird, I know, but I hate the idea of intentionalism and hermeneutics (at the same time as being fascinated)… call me a stickler, but I like getting the exact message the author meant to send out.