Another Story, Another Soundtrack

“Tra-la-la! Sorry, I can’t sing!”

Hi Folks! Been a while hasn’t it? I haven’t figured out what the next story is going to be yet, but in the mean time, I’ve been tinkering with a new soundtrack. About a year ago, inspired by Ellspeth using music to represent her characters, I imagined what the soundtrack to “A Hand To Hold” would be like if the story were made into a film. For that project, I used cinematic music from a number of different films, from composers ranging from John Williams to Jonny Greenwood. I had so much fun, I wanted to do the same thing for a different story, and spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of music might work with “The Harp’s Call.” Those who’ve read the story will remember it’s about a young girl in modern-day Solitude who must solve a ghostly mystery dating back to the Dragonborn era.

This time around, however, I thought that instead of drawing from other soundtracks, I would use music from the classical world. That made the exercise tougher in some ways, but easier in others. The tough part was finding pieces that could pass as cinematic and represent a scene in the story. While some (but by no means all) cinematic score composers might borrow from classical themes, it doesn’t follow that classical pieces, particularly the longer ones, are easy to fit to a story. On the other hand, one might find some very short pieces, such as preludes and etudes, that might match up fairly neatly with a particular scene. Having said all that, I present the soundtrack to “The Harp’s Call:”

Let’s talk about the selections and where they fit in the story.

  • Part I of the story opens with Cari and her girlfriends, Leyda and Anisa, visiting historic Solitude on a class field trip. I wanted a pleasant piano piece to represent the somewhat idyllic setting, and the Kabalevsky prelude I selected felt like a pretty good fit. The somewhat dissonant tone could be taken to represent Cari’s immersive enthusiasm for history versus her girlfriends’ more casual attitude.
  • Part I concludes with Cari becoming lost in time, finding herself in a Solitude she no longer recognizes, and coming face-to-face with the beautiful but terrifying harpist. You can’t miss with Chopin for an intense, brief work, and the prelude I selected illustrates her fear pretty well.
  • Part II opens with an ailing Cari at home under her favorite Aunt Teri’s care. Cari’s mood brightens considerably as her aunt suggests going for a long walk followed by lunch in town. Sibelius’ “Valse Triste” sets the mood for this scene, starting very softly and gently, as a pleasant theme takes shape. Eventually, the pair reach the ruins of the old Thalmor embassy, and Cari realizes that the harpist, whoever she is, isn’t quite done with her. The music picks up its tempo and reaches an almost frenzied crescendo as Cari once again has the wits scared out of her!
  • In Part III, Cari has had enough. She’s going to find out who this ghostly harpist is, and why she’s been haunting her. Over a weekend, Cari plods her way through library books and even interviews the scholarly director of the Blue Palace Museum, accompanied by Fauré’s “Pavane.” I’d settled on this piece pretty early, as it has a gentle, deliberate tempo, not too fast, with an occasional crescendo, which might mark Cari gaining a particular insight.
  • Even though Cari has concluded she’s being haunted by Näktergal, a legendary harpist from the Dragonborn era, she still can’t escape her. Part III concludes with Cari returning to school and being called upon to recite some ancient poetry at the head of the classroom. Once again, she finds herself lost in time as ancient passions boil over once again around her. Chopin’s “Revolutionary Étude” gives us the musical backdrop for this scene, and it’s an intense, almost wild piece.
  • The experience in the classroom is enough to send Cari to the hospital! Part IV of the story starts with Cari convalescing while her beloved Aunt Teri, the only one who really knows what’s happening, comforts her. For this scene, I selected Grieg’s “Solveig’s Cradle Song,” from Peer Gynt, a calming, gentle piece. Though Cari drifts off to sleep, her sense of peace is short-lived, as Näktergal beckons her once more, and Cari is compelled to escape the hospital and follow her into the night. Now, almost fully possessed by Näktergal, Cari sneaks through the darkened streets of Solitude, finally making her way to the sub-basement in the Bard’s college. For this scene, I went back to another Chopin prelude, whose three heavy bass notes at the end might signify Cari’s apprehension by the Solitude police!
  • Confronted by bewildered family, impatient police, and incredulous academics, Cari has to explain herself, and fast! In the conclusion of the story, Cari finally solves the mystery, astonishing everyone and earning Näktergal’s gratitude, even after a thousand years. I thought the Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana worked here; the minor crescendo at the end representing Cari’s final meeting with the spirit, which vanishes and leaves Cari in peace. The remaining threads of the story, including Aunt Teri’s big surprise, are accompanied by another pleasant Grieg piece, “The Last Spring.” At this point, one could almost imagine the end credits starting their crawl down the screen!

Okay so far? You might have noticed one glaring gap in the explanation above: Näktergal is an ancient harpist, isn’t she? She sang, didn’t she? Well, what did her song sound like? To tell you the truth, I don’t really know. While I included several verses of her song in the story, I never really had a tune to go with the words. Maybe she sounded a little like Inger Dam-Jensen performing Grieg’s “Solveig’s Song” from Peer Gynt, included as the final piece on this playlist. Do the words in the story fit the tune? Sadly, they don’t. Maybe I should rewrite them. Maybe I should write a tune, or commission someone to do it for me!

I hope you enjoyed this little soundtrack. It was a lot of fun to do, and if you have any suggestions for additional music for this story, or for my other stories, I’d be glad to hear it. And if you want to build soundtracks for your own stories, definitely let me know so I can link to them!

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