Soundtrack for Sea of Secrets

For a sound­track to 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). Piano and strings, espe­cial­ly cello—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 of Sea of Secrets (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.