Soundtrack for Song of the Sea God

OK – so, a while ago I did a blog about how it’s possible to have a soundtrack for a book. Not for a film or TV show made based on the book you understand – but for the book itself. It could be sounds to listen to as you read the book, or simply songs which complement the themes and emotions conjured up by the text.

So here we have a soundtrack for Song of the Sea God. It’s something which I accept, won’t mean a great deal if you haven’t read the book yet. But the book is available now here in the UK and here in the USA, so please do read it – then you can join in the soundtrack game.

Obviously the music I’ve picked is what the book suggests rather than a list of my current favourites or even all time favourites – a different book would mean an entirely different soundtrack and a different feel. But it’s also fair to say that nobody is going to pick music for a soundtrack which they don’t like.

If you want to listen to the soundtrack as you read the book – the tracks are available on Spotify etc. If you have any additions or subtractions you feel ought to be made please let me know!

You can find the tracklist on Spotify here.

Miserere – Gregorio Allegri

First thing to say – Sea God isn’t a book about Christianity and certainly not some sort of critique. Still, I’ve chosen this Catholic choral piece as it’s mystery and majesty gives the book fantastic context. I love the back story to this piece of music too. It was hidden in the Vatican for many years as a prized jewel, performed only for the chosen few, until the church hierarchy allowed Mozart in to hear it – perhaps to show it off, perhaps because they realised he too was a miracle in musical form. What they didn’t realise was that he had a brain like an MP3 player – he heard the music just once – then wrote it down. Not just the general gist but every part, note for note, and, being of a democratic bent, he gave it to the world. He was worried he would be excommunicated – but the pope let him off.

John Riley – The Byrds

This is a traditional folk song which was picked up in the sixties by various artists including Joan Baez. It’s a haunting song about a woman waiting years for her lost love. I’ve gone for the Byrds version because their harmonies have a yearning quality which gives it extra depth and mystery. ‘What if he’s drowned-ed in the deep salt sea?’

Song to the Siren – This Mortal Coil

One of the best cover versions ever this in my opinion. Listen to the original by folk singer Tim Buckley (Jeff’s dad, though he never met him) and see how it has been given a whole new suit of clothes by the band which was to become the Cocteau Twins. it’s dark, ethereal and beautiful.

Charlie Darwin – The Low Anthem

Gentle and forlorn, this is a song about the human condition and water all around, which seems appropriate.

Nuages – Django Rheinhardt

Starts off sounding cold and creepy but soon enough turns warm and inviting – like Django always did. I’d include this one in honour of the character Barbara in the book, who is nothing if not warm and inviting, but can also turn cold.

You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are – Keaton Henson

A sort of love song this, of the type people write when the love’s just a shadow of what it once was. It’s also by a fairly new artist and so is my tragic attempt to appear down with the kids.

Songbird – Moulettes

Folky, northern sounding, happy and sad at the same time.

It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career –  Belle and Sebastian

Strikes me that this is the nearest thing here to pop music, and it really isn’t all that near is it? Anything which starts with the line ‘he had a stroke at the age of 24’ is hardly Justin Bieber.

Spencer the Rover – John Martyn

An old folk song about a tramp. No wait, it’s better than it sounds. For one thing it is full of compassion and wisdom – it makes the simple story of this lost man who finds his family again seem both wise and heroic. Plus it has Martyn’s smoky vocals and peerless guitar playing.

Anatomy of Love – Shelleyann Orphan

Fey, breathy pop from the 1990s with strings rather than rock instruments – ethereal and beautiful.

The Night Pat Murphy Died – Fiddler’s Green

Rowdy electric Irish folk music played, believe it or not, by Germans. I guess they must have listened to lot of Pogues CDs and just thought ‘We could do that‘ – and why not?

River Man – Nick Drake

Calm but with hidden depths, like the sea some days.

I Dream of Spring – K. D Lang

A sad song about the death of love, beautifully sung. To an extent I think that Song of the Sea God is a story about first the birth, then the death of love.

Frankie’s Gun – The Felice Brothers

And this is the nearest thing here to ‘rock music’ though really it’s American roots or folk or something. A heartbreaking tale of death and betrayal – with a whole world in the lyrics, like a novel in a song.

Athene – John Tavener

Yes, it’s more church music I know. Look, if you write a book which has a spiritual theme it is going to have some spiritual music attached to it I think – music where people are trying to explain, in sounds, the mystery of religion.

Soooo – that’s it. If you have any to add I would be fascinated to hear them.

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9 thoughts on “Soundtrack for Song of the Sea God

  1. Great idea, Chris! I’ve never thought of doing this either, but it suggests a kind of filmic approach to reading and would be very evocative, I’m sure. Emotions are so connected to music. It’s a bit of a coincidence that I’ve just written a post about some music which I associate strongly with memories and images from a period in my life. Your list is fascinating. I don’t know all of the music or artists, but like the underlying esoteric theme I sense.

    • Funnily enough I didn’t really think in terms of theme – more does this feel right? I suppose I ended up with folky things and rootsy things and songs which reference the sea or searching for something, or loneliness.

      • The Byrds, John Martyn and Fiddler’s Green, but especially John Martyn, are longstanding favourites. I’m not religious either, but love chants and church music too, so that’s five I know. Definitely a soulful feeling there. Must organise the weberview with you now I’m reading your book!

  2. Wonderful list, especially since there’s a lot on it that I don’t know. So I’m going to keep this list close by and check out the titles one by one as time goes by. I have my own set of preferred tunes (a rather long list) but I’m always ready to find out new music. Not having read your book yet, I must say…

    • It’s a fun exercise to do I think and actually tells you something about your own emotional response to what you have written. My new book, out next month, is very different, lighter, almost a rom-com, so the song list has a different feel too – more pop for one thing.

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