Like many other art forms, music and literature are two intimate yarns knitted tightly in happy matrimony. Creative minds draw inspiration from other ingenious sources and present flawless incarnations. Great pieces of literature often inspire artworks. Streaming words inspire petrifying harmonies.
However, drawing inspiration from literature is quite conventional. But narrating a few articulated pages by attachment with classical music takes much more than just careful listening.
In the early twentieth century, there was a radical explosion of creative writers publishing words of different genres. It is said that English Literature flourished in the reign of Elizabeth First- making it a predominant era for literature to connect with people.
But that too was for the elite. Sometime after the renaissance, were born two great musicians of all time- Mozart and Beethoven- a new spectrum of classical music elicited before the audience.
But the connection of music with literature certainly goes back down, probably since the dawn of civilization. Famous poets like Keats and Shelly were all very bewitched by folk songs and lyrics. Even in the Indian subcontinent, Hazrat Amir Khusrau introduced Ghazal that bespoke his long-treasured love with poetry and verse.
The modernist writers were the ones influenced most by Mozart or Beethoven. In 1940, Virginia Woolf famously quoted - "It is odd, for I am not regularly musical, but I always think of my books as music before I write them". The quote explicitly shows how prose writers also started taking inspiration from music. A very successful example of this is the 1889 short novella The Kreutzer Sonata, written by Leo Tolstoy.
The Kreutzer Sonata was originally written by Beethoven that encouraged the writer in naming his book. After Tolstoy wrote the first draft of the book, a family friend performed Kreutzer Sonata (Sonata No. 9 in A Major for Piano and Violin, Op 47) at a party at Tolstoy's house. Tolstoy felt an explosion of emotions after hearing the music and asked his friends, actor Andreev Burlak and Artist Ilia Repin to help him express his feelings evoked by the music.
All the emotions he felt listening to Kreutzer's sonata were painted and crafted into words. There had been a rumor that novelist Jane Eyre was totally captivated by folk music. She wrote The Cottage of Cathedral submerged in chimerical enchantments- with melodies sang by Rochester, the man she loved.
Another example of literature inspired by music revolves around a very famous figure of modern classical brilliancy. The writer of dystopian satire, Anthony Burgess, also used musical inspiration in writing the Napoleon Symphony. There is an intriguing story behind this novel.
Beethoven dedicated his third symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte. But after he announced himself the emperor, Beethoven felt that his original motivation for this composition was undeserving. Instead, he named it Heroic Symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man, upon publication.
When Stanley Kubric, the renowned filmmaker, wanted to make a biographical film about Bonaparte, he requested Burgess to write a screenplay for the movie. Burgess wrote a novel in sequence with Beethoven's sonata. Unfortunately, the writing was unsuitable to portray in technicolor curtains. It was later adopted as a stage play and radio drama. More popular examples of Books inspired by music are Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, Love the one You're with by Emily Giffin, and Baby's in Black by Arne Bellstorf.
We have a long tradition of musical literature in Bangladesh and the Indian subcontinent. As a nation, we are very musical- Kirtan, Baul, Bhawaiya, Bhatiyali, and so on- each of which is not only rich in meanings but also repleting in tunes and harmonies. Nevertheless, we do not see many examples of Bengali contemporary writers writing with musical impulsions.
As a writer, I have always imagined if we can engrave our emotions in a book that can either be read or conceived as rhythmic interlacement. Just as Christopher Nolan liquefies his audience in the cinematic world by using Shepherd's tone, can we also do that with novels? It is a closed window that demands further exploration from writers. If you are a writer keen to imprint your feelings onto pages, that closed window just might be calling your name.
Tanha Tarannum Emita is an educator and SDG enthusiast. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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