A Novel Soundtrack: How To Be Both

I know you love reading books, but do you like listening to them too? There are novels that carry a lot of music within them, and Ali Smith's How To Be Both is such a novel.

As the novel is split into two parts, almost entirely separate and independent from each other, so this playlist is divided almost in half. The first half is inspired by one half of the novel, George's narrative. If you've already read the book, you know her art of the story deals with the death of her mother. George is trying to find the songs that her mother used to listen to in the morning, as that is one of her strongest memories of her. But her mother's phone is lost to her, and those songs with it. This part of the playlist is a (hopefully good) guess at the songs her mother would listen to, as a child of the 60s. The second part of the playlist goes back 400 years, and is inspired by the life of the narrator of the other half of the novel, Italian renaissance painter Francesco del Cossa. Here we have some instrumentals by Giovanni Gabrieli, who, granted, lived about a century after del Cossa, but his music is close enough to what the painter would've listened to duris his lifetime. Adding to that, we have a bit of choir music by Monteverdi, supplemented by contemporary instrumental and choir music inspired by music of the 15th and 16th century.

The playlist is both for fans of the novel, who want to delve a bit deeper into the musical undertones of Ali Smith's writing, as well as for people looking to read it for the first time. It's not 100% reading music, but if you're not distracted easily, it should provide a nice soundtrack to your reading hours. Pro tip: definitely don't put on shuffle. It will get weird.





BA English Literature, MSc Publishing. Passionate about contemporary literature, noir comics, beautifully shot films, and whiskies that are old enough to order their own whiskies. Can bore you to death with La La Land songs, Hollywood trivia, George Carlin references, and extensive knowledge on Leonard Cohen.