Suspend Your Disbelief

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Soundtracking a story

Mix Tape

Earlier this week, I mentioned Heidi Julavits’ novel The Effect of Living Backwards, and how she thanks Track 4 of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in the acknowledgements. She suggests she listened to it over and over while writing the novel—but knowing this, would be interested to read the novel while listening to that track, wouldn’t it?

The concept of a soundtrack to a book isn’t exactly new. For some time, the fabulous book and music blog Largehearted Boy has asked writers to make playlists for their books, and the resulting lists include the author’s notes on how the song relates to the text. Recently, a new company, Booktrack, is creating “synchronized soundtracks for e-books that automatically matches music, sound effects and ambient sound to your reading speed to create an immersive reading experience.”

Booktrack has released several works with soundtracks, including a Salman Rushdie short story with a custom-composed soundtrack performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. In an interview with Morning Media Menu, the founder of Booktrack explains:

We are releasing ‘In the South,’ a beautiful story [Rushdie] wrote about two friends and the tsunami that hit India. For that we had composer John Psathas, an award winning musician and huge fan of Rushdie. So he jumped at the chance to actually read ‘In the South’ and interpret it–as well as compose a score for it. […] The same way as a movie composer would score for a beautiful film, he composed an entire score for the short story. He was really looking at the sounds of India, especially Hindu music and what you would hear in that particular part of India where the tsunami hit. And he submitted it to Salman to get his approval and then we submitted it to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra to play it live.

As ereaders become increasingly common, soundtracked books and stories might become the norm. Tell us: would you prefer a soundtracked story, or a silent one?

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