Fiction vs. Non-Fiction

Recently, author Yann Martel was a guest at the Appel Salon. He discussed, among other things, his latest book, The High Mountains Of Portugal. His name may ring a bell if you’re interested in literature and/or movies; he is the author of Life Of Pi, which was adapted into a wonderful film directed by Ang Lee. For the record, I haven’t read the book, but I’ve seen the movie.

One of the topics which Yann discussed was fiction’s ability to explore ideas and outcomes which non-fiction cannot explore to the same degree. To clarify his point, he used a David Grossman book as an example: See Under: Love. This book is set during the Holocaust; one of the characters is immortal and, therefore, cannot be killed. Since he is Jewish, he is put into a gas chamber where everyone around him dies…except him. Needless to say, this fact makes for very interesting possibilities. I explained it as best as I could here, but you really should hear it in Yann’s own words. (To be fair, there are stories of people who have survived gas chambers, including this one.)

This may sound pretentious, but hearing this example of the power of fiction reminded me of what I strive to achieve in my mashups. I can’t hope to evoke visceral reactions to significant historical events like Mr. Grossman; that’s definitely beyond my sphere of influence. However, since the majority of musical artists are content to work within narrow contexts, it’s easy for me to put them in unfamiliar environments. For example, even though Taylor Swift has transitioned from country to pop music, she has no immediate plans to make chamber music or work with The Piano Guys. Nonetheless, I realized those goals for her in “Adele Amadeus Swift.” If she ever makes a classical album, I’ll be happy to take the credit for it.

As it is in literature, so it is in music.


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