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Those of you who’ve followed the series from the beginning know the Ondine Quartet was inspired by the classical music work, Gaspard de la Nuit (Gaspard of the Night), by the French composer Maurice Ravel.
Ravel’s piece is a suite of three movements, tone poems for solo piano inspired by the poetry of Aloysius Bertrand. One of these poems, Ondine, is the epigraph to Whirl.
Bertrand’s poem is an integral element of the series. It acts as a backbone for the world and as the story progresses it weaves in and out, echoing in motifs and overarching themes.
The influence of Ravel’s music subtly permeates all the books. There is an underlying loneliness hidden behind the torrent of dark strength, a melancholic beauty that I wanted to explore.
From the very beginning, the piano’s upper register invokes the atmospheric rhythm of waves. The waters first appear as a distant sparkle, a glistening, ephemeral promise. Cascading water gradually grows in intensity until it surges with power.
Ravel tells the story through sound. Harmonic colorings shape the marvelous imagery of ondine rising from the waters, yearning for what she cannot have.
Even after achieving the most passionate of crescendos, the music returns to a haunting pianissimo, a recurring heartbeat very much like the ocean. It’s an evocative feeling I’ve tried to capture in each book.
When I get down to the actual nuts and bolts of writing, I need quiet. I can’t listen to music or background noise. I need silence and solitude to find the voices in my head and will usually turn off my phone and shut the door to work.
The commonality in art is the desire to communicate something. People who take in that art – readers, listeners, audience – process it in their own way and in doing so the art becomes theirs.
How artistic mediums differ is through the manner in which they carry narrative. Priorities shift because the technique of communication differs with the tools of your art.
The experience of reading a book is markedly different from watching that same story take place on-screen where multiple artists (directors, screenwriters, actors, composers) convey their combined interpretation through a visual experience.
Absorbing the language of music and hearing the story told between notes is vastly different from quietly drinking in the rich visual impact of art at a museum.
You can even point to key differences within the delivery of an art. For example, the immediacy and strength of emotional response in listening to a concert is not the same as listening to a recording.
Once we near the final book, I’ll do a post on how I musically view the structure of each installment and the series as a whole. Music may not direct my stories, but it does influence the aesthetics of what I’m trying to do.
As a reader and writer, rhythm of language is extremely important to me. It’s the first thing I pay attention to in prose, whether it’s the elegant curve of a lyrical turn of phrase or the sharp conciseness of wit and dialogue. I’m also very sensitive to sound – how the pronunciation of words and phrases flow and meld together internally as we read.
I received a few messages from readers inquiring about playlists for these books. Since I do think “musically” as I write, I thought it made sense to try and put one together.
So I set up a Spotify account and had fun
In fact, I had so much fun I did one for Whirl (Spotify | YouTube) and Billow (Spotify | YouTube) as well. These are not songs that inspired a scene or passage. Instead, I selected them because they reminded me of something I’d written.
In Crest’s playlist, I chose a few songs I frequently listened to over the past few months. For example, I’ve really been digging Pink’s The Truth About Love album so she appears on the list a bit more than others.
I selected a few songs for their lyrics or mood. Others because there’s a certain rhythmic pulse that suited one of the thematic arcs in the work.
Most often, it had to do with the quality or color of instrumentation. This includes anything from the rhapsodic or rough expressivity of a voice, the shading of a phrase, or a particular harmonic inflection.
There is no classical music on this playlist. That music defines Kendra and Tristan – it’s the beauty representing the best parts of who they are. Since that music genre is so unique to their characters, I didn’t feel it should be on a playlist tied to overall book themes and mood.
I’ll be doing a post on Tristan’s iPod playlist over on Turner’s Antics near the end of the month. It will be an all-classical selection with explanations and descriptions of each work.
Here’s the playlist for Crest. You’ll need to be on Spotify to listen (it’s free and you can sign in either with an email address or your Facebook). If you prefer, I’ve also included a YouTube video playlist version.