Dreaming in Black and White

August 25, 2011

I was going to write a post along the lines of “the soundtrack for Scorch City,” meaning, I guess, music that would make a good accompaniment to reading the book. I gave this a little bit of thought and eventually asked myself why the hell would you want accompanying music for a book? This started a thought process that I will spare you but which ended in my remembering something I’d read (or possibly heard) recently about a question asked about dreams. The researchers asked people if they dreamed in color or black and white. As you would expect, just about everybody responded that they dreamed in color. But when this question was asked back in the 40s (I think), people answered that they dreamed in black and white. The point was that people needed some kind of analog to describe their dreams and in the 40s television and movies were in black and white, so when people thought about their dreams, they thought about them being in black and white.

So, what is my point? I think that, to an extent, televisions and, to a greater extent, movies influence what we expect from books. The music plays into this because there is a general expectation that things that happen are accompanied by specific audio elements. For instance, I know that when a Southeast Asian forest in napalmed, the sound will be that of The Doors. Coppolla seems to realize this experience/sound relationship when he has Robert Duval’s helicopter group provide their own soundtrack — The Ride of the Valkyries — during their raid on a local village.

Moving away from the sound thing for a moment, how does film influence how I write? If you’ve read The Vaults or Scorch City, you’ll have noticed that my chapters tend to be pretty short.  I’ve been asked about this in the past and it’s always been a bit of a mystery to me because I didn’t set out to write short chapters. It’s just how it worked out. I had a theory that because I write for about two hours at a time, maybe the chapter length was basically a product of how much I could write in that period of time. But another possibility, I guess, is that I’ve internalized the pacing of movies and that  my chapters — “scenes” – reflect what seems like the amount of time they would be given on screen. I’m not sure if this is right, but it’s a theory.

Anyway, about the soundtrack, I can’t really say much after what I’ve written above, right? But I will give this plug: when I wrote the scenes in Fort Deposit (and the Freeman’s Gap scenes in The Vaults), I did have in mind the album In Sacred Trust – The 1963 Fleming Brown Tapes by Hobart Smith.  Listen to the preview for Coo-coo Bird or Buck Creek Girls for a taste.

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