I’ve been thinking since posting about the importance of music in stories (see the post here), and I’ve been more conscious of it when looking at books. When tidying up my bookshelves, I came across a few books that had a direct link with the topic that I hadn’t thought of when originally writing.
One was The New Policeman by Kate Thompson, which is set in Ireland and Tír na nÓg. I love this book, but haven’t read it in years. It’s one of the few books set in Ireland about Irish music and mythology that isn’t sickeningly tourist-y. What I’d completely forgotten was that every chapter begins with the manuscript of an Irish tune. I remember when I first read the book, I loved this. Some of the tunes I remembered my old fiddle teacher showing me, the names and notes bringing back memories of his whiskers, wrinkles, and sparkly eyes magnified through his thick glasses. Others I recognised, faintly remembered hearing snatches of them at different times; others, the names seemed familiar. Some were new, which I immediately played before reading the rest of the chapter. I remember I kept the book in my fiddle case for years: before I started classical violin, it was the only music book I had for the fiddle; I learned everything by ear.
This addition to the book really immersed me in the story. The tunes included at the beginning of the chapter would always end up being played or discussed in that chapter: they were really part of the story. I don’t know how valuable this would have been had I not played Irish music, or the fiddle, or if I didn’t play any music at all and couldn’t read the manuscripts.
The second book I found was Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. This book is about a troubled teen from America who is brought to Paris by her father to try and complete a project for her final exams. While this book is not so exactly fitting with the idea of having a playlist as such with each chapter, music does play a huge role in the book, and I think it is relevant to the discussion. First and foremost, I loved the style of writing, but secondly I loved how the author included so much information on music and artists, both classical and modern. Andi, the troubled girl in question, is doing a project on how Amandé Mahlerbeau, a 1700s guitarist, influenced modern music. The book is overflowing with details on Mahlerbeau’s music as well as all the modern artists he apparently influenced indirectly, including Radiohead and PJ Harvey. While not exactly giving a chapter-by-chapter soundtrack, the book is filled with music and music does play a huge part. Perhaps this is the way to successfully include the pieces of music that inspired you in your writing: interweave them with the story, make them part of it.
Also when writing the post I’m about to publish about poetry and books, I started thinking about the inclusion of quotes from songs: perhaps that would be another way of doing it, provided all your songs had lyrics. Anyway, what do you think?