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The Soundtrack of Your Life

Writing.ie | Guest Bloggers | Songbook

Derek Flynn

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This week I look at new innovations merging literature and music

I’ve been talking here recently about the interaction between words and music, and this week I want to look at some very interesting developments to do with both of these.

The first of these is the use of music as a way of generating interest in a book. As authors look for new and innovative ways of publicising their books, many have turned to the idea of creating “soundtracks” to their books. How do they do this? A number of ways.Derbhile Dromey – whose debut novel The Pink Cage is set in the 90s era of acid house and rave – calls the book “a novel that you can hear as well as see.” In line with this, she created a YouTube channel featuring the best music of that era, from Massive Attack to The Prodigy.

Other authors have compiled soundtracks on their websites. Some – like historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick – use the songs to help them write specific scenes. Chadwick has a website specifically devoted to listing each song (with links) and describing the scene to which it pertains.

Another fascinating innovation – and a potentially more divisive one – is the emergence of e-books with soundtracks. A company called Booktrack has announced they will be releasing e-books with soundtracks that play throughout the books. And, as well as music, there will be also be sound effects. As you read, Booktrack adjusts the speed of the soundtrack to match your reading speed. “The result,” they claim, “is a totally immersive experience that pulls the reader into the author’s world, and allows the real world to melt away.” So – as their video ad shows – the reader could be listening to a club scene in Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City while club music pumps in the background, or be reading Moby Dick to the accompaniment of the sounds of the ocean.

But does everyone want this? This article in The Guardian questions whether this innovation is such a good idea: “It’s the same argument, at root, as the one that advises caution when adapting books for television: if visuals or audios are imposed on a book, you lose the capacity to conjure up your own.”

Whatever your thoughts, the Booktrack software does bring up a number of interesting possibilities. Firstly, we’re talking up to nine hours of music per e-book (mostly instrumental, it has to be said). If e-books with soundtracks were a success, there would be a massive demand for musicians to supply music and this would open up a potentially huge new market for musicians. Secondly, it opens up a whole new world in books. You could have anything on a soundtrack, not just music. In the same way that films use sound effects to ramp up tensions, sound effects in e-books could do the same thing.

The question, of course, is do readers want these new innovations? Books are a different animal to movies and what works in one may not work in the other. The audience will decide with their feet but it’s undeniable that a closer marriage of words and music is definitely on the cards.

And on that note, I hope you’ll join me here at Songbook next week for a very special multimedia experience. A blending of words, music and imagery.

  • www.designforwriters.com
  • allianceindependentauthors.org

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