Illustration for article titled The secret soundtracks of novels

Does your favorite novel have a secret soundtrack, a series of songs that the author listened to (or thought about the novel's characters listening to) while they were writing?


Today, author Ann Leckie stopped in to answer questions about her novel, Ancillary Justice, and, in response to a question by commenter APartyofOne about the basis for the music in her book, revealed the music that inspired her:

You're right, using songs can be very risky! In fact, when I realized that One Esk would sing, I was really, really worried. I've seen music and songs used in stories, and while sometimes it works really well, often it doesn't. After thinking about it, I decided that at least for me, what really doesn't work is when the music (or musician) is romanticized or idealized. So I tried to make the music just a thing people did instead.

I actually don't have particular tunes in mind for the songs that aren't "real" ones. Well, the children's rhyme (for probably obvious reasons) feels like it would be like a jump rope rhyme, or one of the rhymes you do while slapping hands with a friend (is there a name for those?).

Three of One Esk's songs are real songs. The one Anaander sings to Breq is L'homme Arme

(the person with weapons/the armed man. Do by all means listen to the Kyrie based on it afterwards, if you're not familiar with Ockeghem. It's lovely.)

The other two are Clamanda, from the Sacred Harp:

And Bunker Hill from the Missouri Harmony:

To a certain extent, I kind of relied on those being real songs to protect me from their turning out too silly. For the ones I made up, well, there was a lot of agonizing over the words to keep them from becoming ridiculous. My beta readers never even saw them until I was pretty sure they'd be at least all right. I was pretty worried about that aspect of it, to be honest.


So, do you have songs that you like to pair with certain novels, or that you think might have inspired an author? Tell us about them now in the comments.

Image: Joe Lencioni

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