Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m passionate about music across many different genres, and I often use music as an inspiration for my writing. So I was delighted, this week, to read an article in The Huffington Post on ‘lit-pop’ – songs inspired by literature.
The fourteen songs profiled refer to works by Edgar Allen Poe, T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare, Ezra Pound, John Steinbeck, Albert Camus, Walt Whitman, Ernest Hemingway, John Donne, Sylvia Plath, Lewis Carroll, Vladmir Nabokov and J.R.R. Tolkien. But the one that most stood out for me was ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Kate Bush – I’ve always found it a chilling song, rather than romantic, which I think conveys the atmosphere of the Brontë novel.
I would add to the Huffington Post list ‘1984’ by David Bowie, based on the George Orwell classic; ‘Cassandra’ by ABBA, based on the character in Homer’s ‘Iliad’; ‘China in Your Hand’ by T’Pau, based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; ‘Love Song for a Vampire’ by Annie Lennox, about Bram Stoker’s Dracula; and ‘Xanadu’ by Rush, based on Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’.
Then you have band names inspired by books – the Boo Radleys (To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee); The Doors (The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley); Modest Mouse (‘The Mark on the Wall’ by Virginia Woolf); Belle and Sebastian (Belle et Sébastien by Cécile Aubry); Heaven 17 and Moloko (A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess); As I Lay Dying (As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner); Of Mice and Men (Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck), to name but a few.
In an earlier blog post, I shared my findings of a web search for songs called ‘Burning Embers’ in line with my novel’s title – and there was one in particular that I felt shared a connection with the book’s themes.
I love the idea of art forms inspiring art forms. I love that song writers are bringing literature into music. And in return, some writers explore music in words. I’ve found that literature that attempts to recreate music in words can be very powerful: there are excellent examples to be found in Leo Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata, in Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, in Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, in Louis de Bernières’ Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, in Joanna Trollope’s The Choir, in Jilly Cooper’s Appassionata, and in E.M. Forster’s Howards End.
Perhaps one day a piece of music shall so overtake my imagination that an entire love story – setting, plot, characters – will spring up around the music. I very much like the idea of exploring this connection between music and literature in my own writing. The key is finding that right piece of music that transcends the barriers between the verbal and the non-verbal, the letters and the notes, and creates a unity of purpose that takes the reader to a single place that warms the romantic heart.