Regular readers of this blog will know how important music is to me when writing. I have playlists and albums that I reach for depending on the type of story I am writing. Music, usually but not always instrumental, is a necessary part of my writing process. Strangely, when reading I require complete silence to enable me to slip into the world of the book. Which is why the recent promotional activities of a new service/product/app Booktrack caught my eye.
From the Booktrack website:
Booktrack represents a new chapter in the evolution of storytelling, and an industry “first” in publishing, by creating synchronized soundtracks for e-books that dramatically boost the reader’s imagination and engagement. The company’s proprietary technology combines music, sound effects and ambient sound, automatically paced to an individual’s reading speed. Funded by investors including, Peter Thiel, co-founder and former CEO of PayPal, and member of Facebook’s board of directors — and in partnership with the largest publishing houses, best-selling authors, and award-winning composers and musicians — Booktrack is already well on its way to creating a new genre of entertainment. Download Booktracks in the Apple App store for your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
The following promo videos show Booktrack in action
What is Booktrack?
How does Booktrack work?
Sherlock Holmes – The Adventure of the Speckled Band Booktrack Trailer
While I am not entirely convinced, I am intrigued, particularly by the Sherlock Holmes example, and have a feeling this type of addition to text may well work best with particular genres. Period thrillers like the adventures of Holmes and Watson might profit from the addition of period detail. I can’t help thinking the whole affair might be distracting.
That said, I was very impressed by Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Munro app, released back in 2009 but that included the audiobook reading to listen to, which, I believe, Booktrack doesn’t. The Bunny Munro app, the audiobook reading, effects and music combined to create a really immersive experience. The music and soundtrack were crafted by Cave though (along with longtime collaborator Warren Ellis) so the fitness for purpose of the soundtrack should really come as no surprise. The Death of Bunny Munro website features a stream of the Chapters 1-4 of the enhanced audiobook for those of you intrigued enough to click through.
In the recent article about the service in the Guardian, I was struck by how many people in the comments said they selected music to create a particular atmosphere when reading. Any readers of this blog who when reading (or, like me, writing) need music to complete the experience? Is there a market out there for apps like Booktrack? I’m not sure. Though I am sure that there really was little need for this rather exploitative plugging of the product featuring such a gratuitous cleavage shot and some terrible acting by James Frey:
My experience with the Bunny Munro app certainly didn’t have that effect. Considering the nature of Cave’s main character I’m very glad it didn’t.
3 Responses to Booktrack
Intrigued but not convinced either. Surely it’s the author’s job to put sounds in the readers’ minds so unless the author was working with the sound people (clearly not the case in the Sherlock example!), then I can’t really see how it would, effectively, work. Nice idea though.
That’s my problem with it really, though it seems to work okay with the snippet of the Holmes story. I can see horror stories and thrillers benefitting from this perhaps, but as you say it would be better if the author was working with the soundtrack folks, which I admit might be difficult with the Conan Doyle stories.
On that note you should take a look at Richard Beard’s recent post about Papercut, which has done exactly that: http://www.richardbeard.info/2011/09/papercut-writers-james-joyce-ustwo-enhanced-storytellin/
“However, for me, the audio-visual element was more interesting than that – I immediately wanted to re-write the story specifically for this new medium, and that’s what I did. And I do think it’s a new medium for writers, somewhere between the page and a film. The imaginative leap, it seems to me, is to understand that the audio-visual additions aren’t there to illustrate the text. Too boring. They’re there to enhance it, but genuinely, to add something new. The writer should keep faith in the writing, and then use the sounds and images to play with the meanings and rhythms and connotations sparked by the text. The interactivity isn’t only a complement to the words – it needs to be allowed to contradict the story and play with it and make additional layers and jokes of its own.”
If I had an iPad I’d be downloading that app as Beard is a great writer and this approach sounds very cool.
Er. No. I’m going to come over all old-lady here and shake my cane and say, no. 🙂 But thanks for bringing this to me attention. I am indeed intrigued despite myself.
Comments are closed.