THELast year, Taylor Swift’s album Evermore featured two important nods to literature: Tolerate It, inspired by Rebecca, and Happiness, a break-up song that references F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
After the announcement of the release of Dolly Parton’s debut novel with her new album, it seems fictional-inspired music has its time.
Sheet music for book adaptations have enjoyed steady sales for years, with Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind’s soundtrack for The Shining (1980) set to receive a vinyl re-release later this month. And the writers have been writing music that has existed in their work for decades: The late Sean Hughes’ novel The Detainees in 1997 featured a revenge-seeking antiquarian who galvanized after being pushed into a pit. wedding gifts.
The Scottish micro label Bibliotapes has made music inspired by literature into a business in its own right. The label’s goal – asking musicians to compose new scores for classic novels – is such a simple idea that it could almost be a happy accident. Stuart McLean, who runs it, suggests that is the case.
“There was no big plan. The label can best be summed up in one sentence: from soundtracks to books on tape, ”writes McLean.
“After I brought up the idea of book soundtracks on Twitter, I was sent a for CS Lewis The Magician’s Nephew by Ioan Morris, who composed numerous Doctor Who soundtracks for Great finishaudio adaptations of.
Eight more novel soundtracks have now been released by the label, including Audio Obscura’s thrilling score on Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four., Rupert Lally’s dark wind compositions for John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids, and the electronica prepared by Twenty-three hanging trees to accompany Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (and since chosen by Recordings of meadows).
Bibliotapes publishes its soundtracks only as cassettes (McLean “never felt the point of hanging on to something long after the physical copies were sold”, and “cassettes are faster to make and distribute” than vinyl), but the artists themselves have kept their music digitally available through Bandcamp.
Fans of bookish music have been keen to get their hands on the soundtracks – all physical versions of Bibliotapes are long out of print. Part of the appeal of cassettes is how they were marketed as a sort of collector’s item – each soundtrack features original sleeves designed in the vein of Pelican paperbacks from the ’60s.
And some writers have listened to the soundtracks of their books. Susan Cooper, author of children’s folk horror novel The Dark Is Rising, apparently sent composer Rob Colling, known as Handspan, positive comments after its release his album based on his novel.
There is clearly an appetite for albums like this, and McLean is not alone in finding ways to combine music and literature. Track of books, an audio production department, believes that “sound, beyond speech, offers us the opportunity to deepen our experience of the stories and worlds we build in our imagination”, and offers tailor-made compositions, as well as sheet music for reading Kenneth Branagh of Frankenstein, on his online store.
Meanwhile, Frances Castle, illustrator and curator of the Clay Pipe label, has created an ongoing series of graphic novels, Stagdale, of which she composes the score.
Like Bibliotapes, the focus is on physical releases – its story of displaced Londoners negotiating village life in the 1970s is not available digitally – but it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate soundtrack than the glittering instrumentals from the accompanying three-track download.
Maybe Audible or Spotify will someday find a way to deliver an audio experience that ties music to novels (Audible has already dipped its toes in the water with its original “immersive” sound-engineered dramas). For now, however, it is up to small labels such as Bibliotapes to fill this gap in the market. After a hiatus of more than a year (“because of the book-format cases that the cassettes are running out at the supplier”), Bibliotapes is back: it released this week an original soundtrack for the Strugatsky brothers Picnic by the roadside. It remains to be seen whether the label concept will continue to gain traction (could publishers and literary agents soon sell the rights to musical adaptation of the novels in the same way screen rights are currently sold?)