Monday, April 18, 2011

Music Fills in the Gap -- Reflections on Music and Story

"Where words fail, music speaks." Hans Christian Andersen

I am a lover of story in its many manifestations and that includes music. I'm an especially huge fan of music that works together with something else, like say images to create that story.

I am in awe of storytellers, otherwise known as composers, who fill in the blanks, who create the emotional ambiance, who record the memories, who communicate without words.

I've said it before, and it holds unlocks story for me. When I'm reading a book, I often create a sort of soundtrack in my mind to go with the book. It often builds for me a stronger emotional connection to the book, it somehow helps bring to life the places and the people on the page.

I've discovered I especially love film scores for this. Yes I know they are attached to a specific story, but it doesn't matter, I can recycle them. And best of all since they are instrumental, I can listen to them while I read (music with words I find very distracting for some reason)

I am especially attracted to sad or tragic sounding music. For example, last fall I was very attached to Rachel Portman's score for Never Let Me Go. It is so ACHINGLY beautiful that it took several listens for me not to just tear up every time. The only downside to this was that when I finally watched the film, I just wanted to listen to the music, I already had a relationship with it.

While instrumental music works best, sometimes I do like popular music. I wonder sometimes if this is a result of being a daydreamer and someone who already lives so much inside my head. I can't listen to audio books when I drive, because I love music, and also because this a time when I'm forced to reflect on whatever stories I'm already reading. There have been times when I've finished a book, and didn't actually process it until I was in a different car, work, wherever.

But to me music fills in the gaps, it breathes the emotion that sometimes even the most precise words cannot. While we are comfortable tying music to the visual arts, I wonder why we don't talk more about how music could enhance our reading experiences.

I've seen some other book bloggers make soundtracks for the books they read, so I know I'm not alone in drawing a relationship between the printed page and music. Do you find that music can benefit your understanding of a story, or do you find yourself associating the mood of certain music to the stories you love? Are you a lover of music or is it take it or leave it for you?


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