Soundtracks For Your Reading Pleasure

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Just this morning I read an article by Sarah Crown of the Guardian talking about an interesting new company called Booktrack, which produces official soundtracks for books. If you tend to listen to music while you read, this may be something you want to check out.

The idea is that as you read you will hear music to suit the mood of the scene from your novel. This could be music as you would hear in important scenes in movies or television shows, but it also applies to sound effects. What if you were reading a scene in which the weather was stormy with rain and high winds? Booktrack has it covered as the sound of rain and wind would play while you read. At the moment this can only work with ebooks where links to current text are possible (any attempt to do this with print books would be a monumental challenge at present).

Crown has some comments to make about this idea and refers to an example found from the above linked website:

It’s an interesting idea, and I’d quite like to try it out. If done well, I guess it could potentially enhance the reading experience, though I worry – even from watching that brief Sherlock Holmes snippet – that the words and the sound effects would fall out of sync too easily. My only real concern is that I’d be sorry to see the demise of the accidental soundtracks that have punctuated my own reading life.

This is one concern, but for me I find this sort of added reading experience could lead to a restriction in the reader’s own interpretation of the work. In effect, the reader would hear another reader’s expression of what the text should “feel” like as it’s read. This would feel like  a kind of intrusion to me and would likely turn me off from reading the rest of the book. I think the experience of engaging with a text one-on-one is key to understanding what’s written and in order for a relationship to develop between text and reader there must be two levels of creativity: that of the writer putting in place the images, characters, and details of the story, but also that of the reader who develops spontaneously his/her own world from the written queues on the page. Hearing a soundtrack while reading would reduce this experience and restrict individual interpretation of the work to something third-hand.

That said, I have no doubt that some people, either for the novelty of it or because they find this idea fascinating, will enjoy this sort of thing and power to them for it. I tend to read without any music at all, preferring to hear what I read in my head, any mood created coming from the text itself, but to each their own.

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