We all know there're more ways than just a plain novel to get our stories across to the audience. There’s picture, cartoons, poetry and plays to mention just a few. One of the oldest ways of telling stories though was through music. Songs handed down through the generations telling of historical events. Songs that told tales set to music making the story come alive.
They exist today, from the simple lyrics of a track, to monumental stories told over many platters. The music that accompanies the words adds so much to the storytelling process. Like the pure written word, they add hooks, atmosphere and emotion telling a story, sometimes within a few minutes.
As a child I remember my parents playing me Peter and the Wolf. A story told without words but with distinct parts of the orchestra. Then a love of progressive rock introduced me to epic tales told by music and lyrics. Tracks from Genesis like The Musical Box and Suppers Ready told dramatic stories filling the head with images and feeling.
These songs, like many books aren’t there just to entertain, they provide an immersive experience that you’ll never forget, demanding frequent playing/re-reading. They grow in your subconscious to become a part of what made you who you are.
Then there are the rock operas, like The Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia. Albums full of songs, each song telling part of the tale and all together telling an epic story. I think the seventies were probably the zenith of the art of producing these full-blown fables.
Today many groups and individuals use the power of music and lyrics to tell stories or get the message across. A track is a bit like a short story and the full album like a huge novel. The last few years has seen a few of this style of story reappear like Rush (Clockwork Angel), Dream Theater (The Atonishing) , Gandalf’s Fist ( The Clockwork Prologue) The !975 (A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships) and Andy Burrows and Matt Haig (Reasons to Stay Alive).
Sometimes an existing story is put to music like HG Wells, War of the Worlds. An epic story that is made more accessible and atmospheric by the work of Jeff Wayne.
The art of telling a story through music isn’t dead, I’m glad to say.