Time for a Score

Photo of bleak church

Whenever I write a book, there comes a time when I start reading portions of the manuscript aloud to myself. It’s a sure-fire way to spot flaws in grammar, cadence, and voice. I’ve found that reading aloud also helps me to gauge, and adjust, the emotive power of individual passages, especially if I read them to music appropriate to the mood and setting of the narrative. For example, for my book The Devil in the White City, I played the George Winston album, Plains, over and over.

Now, even though I’m nowhere near done with my next book, I’m at a point where I need to start reading passages aloud, which means of course that I first need to build myself a soundtrack. So the other day I put the question out to my friends and fans on Twitter. I wanted gloom, melancholy, cello, viola. Did they have any suggestions?

They came through with excellent choices, some of which I’ve already acquired and started listening to–and reading to. Here are five, most of which were wholly new to me.

Glassworks by Philip Glass

Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Kabalevsky

Un Jour il Viendra, Sarah Brightman

Nessun Dorma, Andrea Bocelli

Gabriel’s Oboe, from The Mission

Throw in bits of the soundtracks from The English Patient and Atonement, and there it is: Gloom, melancholy, cello, viola, by the bucketload. Or something like that.

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Erik Larson is the author of six New York Times bestsellers, most recently The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, which examines how Winston Churchill and his “Secret Circle” went about surviving the German air campaign of 1940-41. Erik’s The Devil in the White City is set to be a Hulu limited series; his In the Garden of Beasts is under option by Tom Hanks, for a feature film. He recently published an audio-original ghost story, No One Goes Alone, which has been optioned by Netflix. Erik lives in Manhattan with his wife, who is a writer and retired neonatologist; they have three grown daughters.

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