Friday, 22 April 2011

The Music in Atlas


I discovered a fabulous new website called Largeheartedboy, for books and music, when they asked me to write about the music in my first book. In their Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book. I went to the site and looked up the music other writers had written about and was entranced -- how extraordinary to discover a book through music and new music through books! What could possibly be more obviously a good thing, yet so rarely done?
A still from The Cloud-capped Star.
A beautiful song from this film is in my playlist.
When I thought about it, I realized that An Atlas of Impossible Longing is filled with different kinds of music. Some of it was in my own head as I was writing it, but a lot of music is referred to in the book as well.
India has its own sophisticated, courtly, classical traditions, both instrumental and vocal; there is devotional music, both Hindu and Sufi; there are varieties of folk music in the different regions of India. There are songs in Indian movies, in which the music is influenced by just about everything. All this music happens in many different languages and uses a huge range of eastern instruments such as the sitar, tabla, sarod, ektara and so on, as well as western ones.
My book is set in India in the first half of the twentieth century, in a small town with a rural, tribal hinterland. One of the important characters is Mrs Barnum, half-Indian half-British, married to an Englishman. Her kind of people made Indian music as diverse as it is. Music hall songs, pop, western classical music, jazz, church music – all came here with the British and French and Dutch and in time mingled with the local traditions of music. Fusion came here early.
Look at my playlist and listen to the music in the book here. All the music mentioned is linked within the site.

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