Words And Music: Should Books Have Soundtracks?

This article, by Sarah Crown, originally appeared on the Guardian UK’s Books Blog on 9/1/11.

A new company, Booktrack, is devising book-length soundtracks for novels and non-fiction. Is it a good idea? Or do we risk losing the serendipitous soundtracks that already accompany our reading?

How’s about this for some brave new world-ery? Very interesting piece in The Atlantic about a company called Booktrack, which "creat[es] synchronized soundtracks for e-books that dramatically boost the reader’s imagination and engagement".

The company was founded by brothers Mark and Paul Cameron, after Mark realised that "as he selected his own music-reading pairings" he was "choosing songs that emotionally corresponded to the words on the page". Inspired, the pair set about devising "movie-like soundtracks for digital books" (it only works for digital books, as the soundtrack needs to be linked to the page you’re reading), combining sound effects and original music. They only have tracks for a handful of books so far, but if you click on the copy of Sherlock Holmes on the top shelf on this page, and watch the trailer, you get a sense of where they’re going with it.

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.

Read the rest of the article, and view a video about Booktrack, on the Guardian UK’s Books Blog.

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