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If Fiction Genres Were Music Genres

Updated: Jan 18, 2019

The parallels between fiction and music just never cease. This time, I’m going to look at genres. Yes, I’m going to take your favorite fiction genre and tell you what kind of music you ought to be listening to. Okay, so, that’s probably not going to pan out, but I still think there are some logical correlations. Let’s take a look.

Below (and some of you are such a product of this generation’s attention deficit, that you’ve already skipped down to the genre grid) you’re going to find a quick take on several fiction genres and the music that resonates with them. Now, before you write me with corrections and additions, ad nauseum, let me just say: It’s my list. I would love to see yours (so to speak). We could totally fight over nuances and definitions and my complete failure to include: Bhangra, Ambient, Junkanoo, House, Klezmer, Mariachi, Cajun & Zydeco, Chinese Opera, Doo Wop, Funk (prolly should have included that one), Vallenato, Surf Rock, Soca, Kompa, Pagan, Ska, Samba, Skiffle . . . and no, I haven’t lapsed Suessian. But hey, let’s not fight, huh?

I’m drawing out a point, not creating an index.

See, storytelling has commonalities. That’s at the heart of this whole article series of mine. Music tells stories. Fiction tell stories. The syllogism writes itself.

So, it won’t really shock you if I propose that the music of Cyberpunk is Industrial. There’s a kind of futurosity (my coinage) and wrecklessness and grit and Bladerunnery thing about the two, isn’t there.

Or, take books that are making an earnest attempt at humor; if you can’t hear a polka whilst you’re reading one of those, more’s the pity for you. Or, on the other end of the fiction and musical spectrum, take, say, poetry. I can’t think of a music more poetic than jazz. Jazz can just run on forever, played atop musical modes–Phrygian, Mixolydian, Locrian, and all the rest–and with a foundation to riff on, define endlessly unique phrases that make us pay attention. Deep, right? What about the limerick, you say? Well, jazz has a lighter side; check out Vince Guaraldi, who composed for the Peanuts Gang:

A metapoint here is that artistic endeavors can be broken down into identifiable types. This is helpful to folks who make lists. It’s helpful to marketers and merchandisers who have to stick things on shelves and conceive of messaging frameworks. But it’s also at least marginally helpful to readers, since, hey, I don’t want to find myself reading the fictional equivalent of pop music. Don’t be offended. Music is personal. I gotta be me.

But the even awesomer metapoint is that these subcategories tend to find resonances across artistic mediums. (Oooh, that sounded like the first line of an abstract. Sorry, been doing lots of research for book two.) Some day, when I’ve way too much discretionary time, I’ll extend these genres to painting and sculpture and animal husbandry. For now, I’ve bitten off enough with fiction and music.

The reason for this shall remain my secret, y’all.

And while I’m kind of bending my own rules a bit, have a listen to this fine fellow using a bit of ragtime-y, musical-theater-y sound to produce his steampunk tune:

Okay, enough Youtube links. The heart of the matter is this: There are certain expectations, explorations, tones, etc, that have become the hallmark of fictional genres. We love ’em; we revel in ’em; we return to ’em. The same is true of music, of course. And when these expectations, explorations, and tones line up, we find correlations across artistic mediums. So, without further ado, have a look at my first blush at some of these:

So, there you have it. Some of these are quite obvious, right? It wasn’t much of a stretch to go from Fan Fic to Filk. But think about Thriller and Trance music. Think about Existentialist and World Music. I will cop to a fair amount of playfulness in this exercise. I couldn’t help it. Much as I did with the post on lyrics/lyricism, once I got rolling, I couldn’t shut it off.

All that’s left is to say that the thing I’ve written with The Unremembered is pretty much the literary equivalent of Progressive Metal. I’d argue that all the way to fisticuffs, just because I love Progressive Metal. More than that, it just makes all kinds of sense. PM is epic: it makes use of dynamics, considered lyrics, tempos changes, meter changes, long form narrative (can you say, “my novel is 400K words”), powerful rhythms, and all the rest. And then it will put all that in your face, back off so you think about it, and come back to drive the point home . . . with a vengeance. Least ways, that’s what I aim for. Of course, by turn, PM is also heartbreaking. For proof, check out this Dream Theater tune:

Anyway, this all usually happens in the space of about twelve musical minutes. Longer, of course, with books.

Until next time, fiction and music lovers . . .


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