For the gothic romance Sea of Secrets, I wanted something with the feel of the 19th century, so I chose a lot of classical and pseudo-classical works. Because I wanted a sense of drama, I ended up gravitating toward movie scores, and many of the tracks have a mysterious or brooding mood (much like a certain character in the story). Strings, especially cello, and piano—often together—are the instruments that gave me the feel I was looking for, and I sought selections that had a rippling, flowing quality like water. Because the sea is an important motif in the story, I also chose numerous songs—some of them modern pop songs—that evoked the sea, whether in the lyrics or in less direct ways. One track, Chopin’s nocturne no. 7 in C sharp minor, isn’t represented here because for ages I lost track of just which Chopin nocturne it was. Disorganization is a sign of genius, isn’t it?
I ended up with the following playlist, which I offer here in case anyone wants accompaniment for their reading or just a set list for stormy days and nights on troubled seas.
1. “The Two Trees,” The Mask and Mirror, Loreena McKennitt. Almost everything by McKennitt is remarkable, but the addition of cellist Ofra Harnoy makes this song particularly rich.
2. “Catherine Dies,” Wuthering Heights film soundtrack, Ryuichi Sakamoto. This haunting score is not widely known, but well worth seeking out.
3. “Big My Secret,” The Piano film soundtrack, Michael Nyman. I love the tempestuous mood of this piece.
4. “Morning Passages,” The Hours film soundtrack, Philip Glass. Glass’s score for The Hours was a particularly good fit for Sea of Secrets; if ever there’s a film adaptation (fingers crossed), that entire score could practically be imported in toto.
5. “Sea,” Autumn, George Winston. Has that rippling quality of motion that puts me in mind of wavelets.
6. “Song to the Siren,” Black Flowers, Geoff Smith Band. Geoff Smith and vocalist Nicola Walker Smith create some of the most hypnotic modern classical songs I’ve heard. “Song to the Siren” is beautiful to me in all its incarnations, but this cover is particularly powerful.
7. “Main Theme,” The Piano film soundtrack, Michael Nyman.
8. “Six Wings of Bliss,” 15 Wild Decembers, Geoff Smith Band. The lyrics are taken from the writings of Emily Brontë, which seems apt for a gothic story set in 19th-century England.
9. “The Poet Acts,” The Hours film soundtrack, Philip Glass.
10. “Phantasms of Love,” Portrait of a Lady film soundtrack, Wojciech Kilar. Heartily disliked the film, loved the original score—much as with another Kilar film score, that to the innacurately titled Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Sometime when you have a couple of hours to kill, ask me how I feel about that movie. Go on, I dare you.
11. “Nocturne,” Paul Schwartz. I particularly like that this wistful little piece introduces a waltz tempo into the lineup, a period-appropriate detail.
12. “Love Remains,” Portrait of a Lady film soundtrack, Kilar.
13. “Exile,” Watermark, Enya. The cool, lonely sound of this song is very evocative.
14. “The Secret Marriage,” Nothing Like the Sun, Sting. Thematically it’s not an obvious choice, but the quiet emotional intimacy somehow evokes Oriel and her discovery of love.
15. “Two Trees,” A Celtic Tale: The Legend of Deirdre, Mychael Danna. Perhaps the least celtic-sounding track on its source album, this has a gentle but moving quality that I am drawn to.
16. “Sea Song,” Saturnine Martial & Lunatic, Tears for Fears. A moving cover of Robert Wyatt’s song.
17. “Underwater,” Poem, Delerium featuring Rani Kamal. I used to imagine this song being played over the movie version’s end credits . . . until the next track came along.
18. “Nemo,” Spythriller. This icy-cool cover of the Nightwish song—featuring a cello solo—has a yearning, even epic quality that I find captivating.
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