Music Inspiration From Books

So you have writers block, why not read a book?

I just finished reading the Mistborn Trilogy by author Brandon Sanderson.  I absolutely loved the story, characters, and the world itself.  It was an epic roller-coaster ride, that left me gasping for more.  After I finished the book I immediately started to compose music based on the characters and locations that I read about, all for my own personal satisfaction.  My girlfriend started to overhear some of the compositions that I have been working on, she is currently reading the Mistborn Trilogy herself and started to link the pieces of composed music to the characters with a surprising accuracy.

When writing music, you want to be able to play with a persons emotion. When reading a book, its also playing with your emotions, whether it be tears for the death of your beloved characters, Dam you George R R Martin, or the sense of accomplishment when characters overcome obstacles etc. The same goes for composing music, it has the ability to trigger all the same emotional feelings we get from reading a book. Combine the two and we can amplify the emotional feeling or make it more obvious. This process is the foundation of Film, TV and Game scores. After explaining this to my girlfriend in great detail, I soon realised she couldn't wait for me to shut my gob so she could get on with reading her book. However before she moved on, she asked “what good is all this music if it just stays on your computer?” Well for me it was personal satisfaction, but yeah, its no good to anyone just sitting on my computer. She continued with “Why don’t you share it, start a blog or something”, so here I am, can you see the dilemma? its not much of dilemma really. Share my thoughts and music to those that are interested, or keep my thoughts to myself, and keep my music locked away to be forgotten and probably deleted when I need some extra hard drive space.

Which brings us to the main point, being a composer I’m always looking for inspirations to write a piece of music, sometimes I can be stuck for days with writers block, unable to come with something new. However I have found that after reading a book, I am bursting with ideas, so much so that I need to organise and note my thoughts, in fear that I will soon forget what I imagined in my minds ear, see what I did there.

When searching for inspiration to write a piece of music, especially from the different forms of media we now have available.  Books I feel have the most to offer, if you're watching TV or a Film, there is usually an underscore already in place, which can lead a composer to writing a similar piece of music, which is okay.  The same goes for video games, you can get inspired to write something interesting based on what you have already heard from the composer that scored the original soundtrack.  When we consider books for influence, well there is no underscore, there is nothing in place, unless perhaps you like reading while listening to music, which lets face it the majority of us do, but I personally struggle to do so.  I normally end up focusing on the music, trying to work out the instrumentation, tempo, time signature, arrangements and before I know it, I have read ten pages without taking in any of the information, now I have to go and re-read what I just read, or else worry that I missed a good piece of drama which could be a key part to the story.  I envy you if you can do both, which is practically everyone.

The reason I feel books is a great inspiration for writing music, as previously mentioned there is no underscore to influence your decisions on instrumentation or genre, and also you have a lot to work with, for example you have character themes to design, location themes, emotional themes, and even drones and ambient tracks can have a purpose or a meaning behind it.  Plus you can always score to the almost limitless amount of scenes that are available in the book. 

This so far is how I personally feel when reading a book, I am basically inspired to write all sorts of musical themes and textures, under no influence from work that has already been scored.  I have done no research on the matter, but I am positive as to what the results will be for other composers, which could be an interesting thread for a future topic. 


Check out the music tracks inspired by the Mistborn Series below, and until next time, thanks for stopping by! .