Friday, 22 March 2013

Book Post: Music And Books

Cover of "Object 47"
Cover of Object 47
Finishing Shemlan - A Deadly Tragedy has been something of an event for me. The way it went at the end, words tumbling onto the page at a tremendous rate because I knew precisely where I was going, was great fun. And the journey there was accompanied by Rammstein and Arvo Pärt - as strange a combination as you'd ever want. I defy you to listen to Pärt's 'Fur Alina' without feeling a sense of desolation, loss, beauty and peace.

Music has always had a critical relationship to writing books for me. Tunes have influenced the tone of my writing and the type of thing I'm writing has influenced the music I listen to. I think about what I'm writing when I drive to work in the mornings, a half hour of solitary pondering that usually defines the scene I'm about to commit to type. The music on the CD player or iPod can really influence the way that goes.

Similarly, some music has had a totally seminal effect on the book I'm working on. I always had it in mind to add the 'soundtrack' of each book to the end bit but never got around to it. Here, for what it's worth, are those lists.

It's so long since I wrote Space now, I forget much of the soundtrack, but I do recall listening to a lot of early Wire - anyone out there remember the amazing Another The Letter? Later on, I found myself editing Space listening to Object 47, which had the perfect feel for the book for me.

Olives was actually written as the result of a piece of music - I've told the tale many times, but I went to sleep one night listening to George Winston's February Sea, which had me thinking about a girl dancing in the rain (the central scene in the book) and woke up with a book in my head. I listened to a lot of George Winston while I was writing and subsequently editing Olives. Brian Eno was also a major listen, particularly the stunning 'Music for Airports', but also this amazing little thing, take a listen and see if it doesn't make you want to cry - Bone Bomb. I was also enjoying Lebanese east/west fusion act Blend at the time, although it looks like they're defuncted now. This amazing piece of music by Secret Garden informed the ending of Olives - it's actually a mother's song to a child, but I always think of it as the voice of a lost lover.

Secret Garden, appropriately, ended Olives and started Beirut - I always thought if Beirut got made into a film I'd like the title sequence to be a film of the waves as if approaching Beirut by helicopter, then flying over the city and through its streets as it woke up in the morning. The music would be this piece and the title would reveal at around  2:40. Then we move on to more sensible stuff, particularly Kasabian with the first scene in Beirut very much written listening to this (Lynch and Palmer walk out of the villa and this tune is playing as they drive up the track to the Saida Road). There was a bit of Guy Manoukian going on, as well, some Oumeima and a lot of Beirut Biloma

An awful lot of Foo Fighters, oddly enough. And then the esoterica. A lot of Silence, a huge influence on the book, as was Jorgestrada. I picked up a recording of singing from Estonian Orthodox Churches which I listened to a lot with enjoyment. Jason Hartmoor's first awakening in the book takes place with that playing in the backgrond as he looks out at the beach at Newgale. Oddly enough, that music is a huge influence on composer Arvo Pärt, whose De Profundis was also a biggie during writing. And then there was a load of Ulrich Schnauss and tons of Sigur Ros. To finish, we depended on Professor KliqRammstein, Sasha and the Chemical Brothers. Seriously. And then the last few pages were very much down to Mr Pärt.

So. Now you know...
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