The Sunday Salon: The Music of Panem

No matter what Diana Gabaldon might say about us, fans are creative, man. (I will never let Gabaldon live that down. Good Lord, what a stupid thing to say.) We run riot in the subtext, write plenty of meta about our beloved stories, and, occasionally, we write music. Okay, I don’t write music; I’m not very musical—I’m a woman of letters, but not of notes, unfortunately. (For a few years, I thought I did have a song bubbling inside of me; it turns out it was “Listen to Your Heart” from Pocahontas. In my head, my life is scored by Alan Menken, and, on occasion, Michael Kamen. I don’t do anything cool enough to merit Howard Shore.) The creation of music, to me, is some kind of mystic mystery, which is why I was so taken with who I discovered last Sunday night. Ladies and gentlemen, I discovered a fan composer.

Sam Cushion is a musician as well as a big fan of young adult literature. To the best of my research, he started writing short scores for books in 2008, starting with Twilight. Unfortunately, Summit Entertainment found it to be copyright infringement and shut his Twilight band, Midnight Sun, down. You can still find some of those tracks floating around the Internet, but I won’t lead you to it. Undeterred, Cushion continues to write music for the books he loves, having moved onto The Hunger Games.

Cushion has already released Music of Panem: Beginning of a Rebellion — Part I, which covers the events of The Hunger Games (the first book, not the entire series, obviously), and Music of Panem: Beginning of a Rebellion — Part II, which covers the events of Catching Fire. The latter is less extensive than the first, but you can imagine that many of the same themes in the first score apply to the second. He’s also clearly started on Music of Panem Part III: The Rebellion; the title track, “Mockingjay”, is available as a single.

Orchestral is the wrong word to describe Cushion’s music. Instead, it’s very streamlined and simple, with limited vocals and an electronic flare that reminds me of the late nineties and early aughts. The most expansive track on Music of Panem: Beginning of a Rebellion — Part I is “The Girl Who Was On Fire”, and that’s only because of how the vocals are mixed; I can easily see Katniss in her fiery regalia against a dark sky and plenty of people. “The Hunt” is just as twitchy and paranoid as you could hope for, and often drops out into beats meant to mimic a heartbeat. “Rue’s Lullaby”, which is one of Cushion’s favorite tracks, is sad and vaguely march-like. The entire album—I only listened to the first one, as I’ve only read The Hunger Games—is piano-based, oppressed, with hints of rebelliousness and triumph.

Ultimately, this isn’t music I’d go out of my way to listen to or, on my own, associate with the series. I think it’s a bit too stripped down and narrow for the world of The Hunger Games, and I find Katniss’ theme too delicate for such a rough girl. But the fact that Cushion wrote a score instead of traditional filk—think Harry and the Potters and you aren’t too far off—amazes me, and I’m so glad it exists. Check it out, it’s definitely worth a look.

And if a fan score isn’t your bag, perhaps this is.

This past week has been busy, as usual. It’s fall break for me, so I’m at home at the moment—I’ve been cooking! I’ve got some choices to make academically soon; turns out I’ve been taking too many classes over the past two years, which, to be totally honest, is an awesome problem to have. I’m still getting through Firebirds Rising—haven’t had much time to read, sadly, so thank God for my scheduled posts. I’m still frantically trying to get through The Tigress of Forlì for tomorrow, but it will get done.

I’m giving away a copy of The Graveyard Book until Friday! Don’t forget to enter! Tor/Forge is giving away a Repairman Jack bundle until October Tuesday; you must register for their newsletter to enter. The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!

What do you think? Are there any songs you associate with certain books?

5 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: The Music of Panem

  1. I haven’t even read The Hunger Games yet, but it does make me happy that something like this exists. I’m as unmusical as it gets (although I love music it) and am in awe of people who can write it. And seriously, Gabaldon :S

  2. Oh, Gabaldon. What a mean curmudgeonly post.

    The things won’t play for me, my internet is being such a weirdo freak right now! But I will listen later. I love it when books I adore have music that goes along with them in my brain. If I read a really fantastic book, I badly want it to have a song associated with it. Like I love it that Todd’s father in the Chaos Walking books has a special song he always sings, AND that Patrick Ness had in mind a particular artist’s version of that song. Now I sing that song whenever I feel fond of those books, and it makes me feel awesome.

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