• Sheryl Gwyther

The soul of a story ... music

Do you have certain things pop into your stories if you write, or in the books you read? Icons like a cowrie shell, or a cross, or the smell of lavender or lemons, or the sea.

For me, it's music.

Some people like silence when they write, some authors have music playing or the tellie blaring to help them write ... like Brian Falkner, popular Kiwi author living in Australia. Brian talks of how he plays a CD of exciting, stirring music loudly when he's writing his fabulous action plots. Obviously, it works!

I listen to music when I write too ... for protagonist, Caterina in my work-in-progress novel from 18th Century Venice for Upper Mid-grade readers, it's Vivaldi's concertos and sacred music. Or anything from the Baroque era, my favourite time in musical history. And the instruments I love the best, violin and voice.

For my children's novel set in Australia's Great Depression, I listen to ... big surprise? No, it's Vivaldi's music as well. His many hundreds of compositions help me think and imagine.

But what if music is included in the actual plot?

Music plays a strong role in Upper mid-grade readers, The Four Seasons of Caterina. Particular pieces of music are intertwined into the action. Like Vivaldi's famous composition, The Four Seasons, especially his short Winter and Summer concertos as they influence Caterina's actions in the story.

The Gloria sung by the choir of the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice is very much alive for Caterina when she becomes part of its first public performance.

18th Century Venice was, and still is, the city of music. It's been a very natural process to imagine the right rhythms and melodies for different parts of the story. I can see this novel one day being a full-on literary/aural experience.

Who knows? Maybe it will even have gorgeous line illustrations done by a talented illustrator, and a beautiful hard cover as well? No harm in dreaming, eh?

For another of my work-in-progress feisty heroines, Adversity McAllister - living during Australia's Great Depression, growing up in a family of actors and singers ensures she knows the popular songs from her era. She can carry a tune well with melodies and lyrics at her fingertips. Music is essential to this story. Here's a beautiful, popular song from 1930 that Adversity knows well. Someone to Watch over Me, sung by the great Gertrude Lawrence.

In post-First World War Australia, popular music featured nostalgic songs from 'Mother England'; but by the late 1920s, American jazz increased in popularity as Hollywood's new moving pictures took over the infant Australian film industry in the late 1920s. They hastened the closing down of live theatre and vaudeville shows.

Even in hard economic times, people sought out music, playing and singing it for themselves, in pubs, homes and church halls in the final glory days of vaudeville theatre before they sold up to give way to the talkies.

Main image: from the BoppinBabies.com.au site ... much appreciated for this one-off use.

(c) Sheryl Gwyther 2017