Saturday, 19 February 2011

Books and Music

I love books. And I love music. Among other things, of course, but these are two of my passions. And if my genres in literature are somewhat limited, when it comes to music I do listen to a lot of things (although I stay mostly in that wide circle of Rock).

Listening to music while reading is (or at least used to be) pretty much the norm to me, and this can lead to some strange connections between songs or albums and books. For example, while reading Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin I was constantly listening to Queens of the Stone Age album Songs For The Deaf, and this album will always remind me of that book (especially the song A song for the Deaf), and the book will make me want to take the CD of its casing and play it really loud.

This does not happen a lot, I tend to listen to mixed music. But whenever I listen to one album in constant loop (or a song in constant loop) and I'm deeply engrossed in the story, what I'm listening to becomes a soundtrack to the book.

And this is not exclusive to proper music. While reading Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Marakumi I discovered a flash game, called Coma. It is actually a pretty good game - you should try it. There is a dreamlike feel to the game, and an amazing song that plays in the background. And you what? I can't help but associate that song (and that game) with Kafka's time in the Forest.

But there are other dimensions to this Literature-Book thing. There is a lot of music around that has been inspired by books (and the other way round too), but it is actually kind of fun when you find such music and you are reading the book.

One of these songs is IAMX's Song of Imaginary Beings (although there is a demo version by Sneaker Pimps, also very good), that takes inspiration from Jorge Luis Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings, and was one of the reasons I started to read it.

Another example is a band that I love, and that uses literature as the main inspiration for most of their albums. I'm talking about Blind Guardian. They have songs inspired by Lord of the Rings, Discworld and Arthurian Legends. But best of all, they have an entire album dedicated to The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I really like Tolkien (and as a Fantasy fan it would be akin to heresy to say I didn't). I like The Lord of the Rings, I love The Hobbit [and Hurray for the upcoming movie!], and I like The Silmarillion (and The Unfinished Tales). So an album dedicated to a book that I love by a band that I love - that was something I had to have. And it is really great to read The Silmarillion while listening to Nightfall In Middle-Earth.

And my last point is about songs that are in itself a story. As far as songwriting goes, there is not set formula. Some say whatever comes to their minds, some write songs full of hidden meanings, others come up with proper storylines.

Recently I've came across a song by the band Rasputina, called the Snow-Hen of Austerlitz. The lyrics of this song are just like a dark fairytale, and it makes me wish for the continuation of the story.


  1. Dantes ouvia muita música enquanto lia, mas ultimamente perdi esse hábito e agora acho até que me distraio se oiço música enquanto leio.
    Nunca me tinha dado conta que havia muita música com base em livros, e acho a ideia bem engraçada. Gosto muito da música dos IAMX, e as restantes são interessantes.

  2. Sadly, music distracts me when I'm reading something. Yes, even instrumental. I wish it didn't so I could read more on the bus. When it gets too noisy I just have to stop. :(

    On the other hand, there are a lot of songs that can remind me of a certain book, a scene, a couple, or even of just a character. Sometimes this happens because while I'm reading I hear that song and somehow it sticks to my memory of the book. Sometimes it's the lyrics, for obvious reasons; but even if the lyrics have nothing to do with the story, just the music can do this -just as it happened to you with Kafka and Coma. I'll give an example because this one was actually your fault: while I was reading Outlander, you, for some reason I can't remember, sent me a youtube link for me to listen to Katie Gray's "Set Free", and since then that's a trigger song, if I listen to it: BAM! Outlander-cold-bloody-dirty-half-naked-Jamie comes to mind (and I'm not complaining, just saying). Sure it helps that in the middle of the music there's somekind of instrument playing that gives it a Scottish vibe, but still, it's a pretty random song for me to associate with this book.

    Rasputina makes me sad :(

  3. @Ana
    Eu também fui perdendo o hábito de ouvir música enquanto lia, mas nos transportes públicos torna-se absolutamente necessária a música, que senão distraio-me com as conversas todas ao lado. Claro que a combinação livro+música faz com que seja muito fácil não sair na paragem certa :S

    Existem bastante músicas baseadas em livros, mas normalmente a ligação não é fácil de ver. Na Wikipedia tem uma lista (bastante incompleta) de músicas baseadas ou que recontam livros.

    I can totally understand that sometimes the lyrics take our minds to a certain books. For instance, this one by Patrick Wolf, the lyrics at the beginning remind my of Daughter of the Forest, even if the rest of the song doesn't have much to do with it.

    And still love that Rasputina song, to me is not sad, it's full of possibilities :D

  4. *gasp* :O

    The day our house collapsed I went down stream.
    I followed the swans, like I follow my dreams.
    I was living on borrowed time in a borrowed house for a borrowed crime.
    In need of help I came to a door...

    *jen cries*

  5. Yep, now you see why I think of that book...