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Page last updated at 07:15 GMT, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 08:15 UK
Saviours of the audiobook?

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

Have you ever found yourself reading a book with a certain CD playing and found the experience instantly enhanced?

We take it for granted that the soundtrack of a film is a central part of the viewers' enjoyment.

But the idea of a soundtrack as you listen to an audio book has barely been explored - until now.

Open book

"I just thought something remarkable could be done," says musician and author Nick Cave, who with his long time collaborator Warren Ellis has composed a complete score to the audio book of his latest novel The Death of Bunny Munro.

"I'm a huge fan of the audiobook, I listen to a lot of audiobooks, but I've found them largely disappointing," he says.

"It is this wonderful art form that is never exploited in any interesting way."

Cave laments the lack of a commercial market in audiobooks, but accepts that there are certain dangers to his project.

Just as with film scores there is a fine line between the right kind of emotional manipulation and an "overly manipulative" soundtrack.

"What you don't want is for the music to distract you from the story, but that is exactly the same thing with film," he says.

Just to make sure, he has gone to great pains to ensure the music slots into the background, having the soundtrack "spatialised" in three dimensions at a production house in New York.

"The book is like a hallucination anyway, but this is psychedelic," he says.


Do you think the audiobook is an underexploited medium? What soundtrack do you think is the perfect fit for your favourite novel? Let us know using the form below.

My nomination would be Stravinsky Symphony in 3 Movements - the opening bars - for the Third Man or any other dramatic spy novel.

Sounds esoteric doesn't it? But 50 something years ago someone with real imagination at the BBC used this for the signature tune to the children's serial Counterspy, a really exciting children's spy thriller on Children's Hour.

As a result it was one of the reasons I got hooked on classical music but I never knew what the music was at the time. Later at music college I found myself playing this very same piece of music with spine tingling results!
William Weston, Barnard Castle, County Durham

Try reading a Dan Brown novel (any one) with John Coltrane's 1965 version of Love Supreme playing in the background. It works! This idea could be further explored perhaps with authors suggesting suitable background music in the foreword or an accompanying CD (or music download).

Jon Shipley, Northampton, Northants

What a cool idea! I'd love to see the feasibility for a multi-option soundtrack: do you go with a soundtrack that the author feels is suitable for the book (in which case, there's a whole new aspect to writing that authors can explore), or do you let the reader select a soundtrack that meets their tastes and/or mood? (so you would need several tracks to be produced for each book).

Obviously in order for this to work you'd need a storage medium that could handle the relevant volumes and a playback mechanism that could handle delivering two tracks simultaneously (story and music), and the big risk of having multiple soundtracks per book would be a dilution in the quality - no-one would want literary muzak!

For a starting point though, I think Warren Ellis and Nick Cave co-ordinating on such a project should give superb results. Adroit, eclectic, ground-breaking and just plain interesting!
Chris, Leeds

What an appalling idea!!! It can often be hard enough to distinguish words amid background music in radio plays so please please do not inflict it on us throughout a talking book.

I want to listen to the words of the author and find it irritating even when there is music at the beginning and end if it is not my choice.

Those who want to listen to background music during a book can put a CD on! Recommend a cd to play at the same time by all means but do not inflict it on everyone!

I rely on talking books as I have severe ME and find it very tiring to read a print book and it will be a nightmare if this becomes the trend and you cannot get a version without music!
Veronica Jones, Coleford, UK

Music with audiobooks? Having The Gulag Archipelago read with, for example, Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by Middle of the Road played on a Stylophone would, I think, be about right.
Jonathan Sumpton, Hafjell, Norway

Delighted to see the audiobook getting recognised as more than just a second-best substitute for a book, which is how so many (including some reviewers in national newspapers) seem to regard it.

Actually, I can think of at least two books which very specifically make use of the opportunities - Alan Bates's reading of Vikram Seth's novel about a string quartet, An Equal Music, has relevant music quotes throughout, and the audio version of Carols Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind, as read by James Wilby, does have a soundtrack like a film - the author is a film composer as well as a novelist, and wrote music to accompany the reading.

To answer your actual question, though: a favourite novel is 1984 - that needs something rather bleak - perhaps Bartok or Berlioz?
Neville Wenlock, London

Those of us with hearing difficulties already struggle to hear spoken commentary during documentaries or films supposedly "enhanced" by background music. Also, for those whose eyesight is poor or whose hands can no longer comfortably hold a book, Audio books are a wonderful means to continued enjoyment of literature.
Scottish Pensioner

Years ago heard The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson to mix of tracks selected by Paul Oakenfold on a long car journey on I think it was Viking or Humberside radio and thought it was brilliant. Even tried to see if could buy it without success. Also War of the Worlds with narration by Richard Burton was a perfect combination.
Dorothy Maxwell, Hull

Have to disagree with the basic premise. I listen to audio books daily (while I drive). Those very few that do try to make use of music invariably get switched off for one that does not. The music is normally intrusive, and poorly mixed. Sound effects, also, tend to overwhelm the spoken word. The choice of narrator is far more important
Robert Harkess, Herts

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