How do you sing a song no one's ever heard before?
April 8, 2010 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Are there examples of made-up songs from books (like the original Winnie-the-Pooh's hums) being put to music anywhere?

Sometimes in a book a character will sing a song--or a piece of a song--that doesn't exist in the real world. Think Winnie-the-Pooh's hums in the original books or the "Rise Up" song from Terry Pratchett's Night Watch.

Are there examples of songs like these being put to music anywhere? If there are, I'm mostly interested in official sorts of recordings: either stand-a-lone pieces or audiobook readings.
posted by colfax to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
More of an on-purpose one: Margaret Atwood's new book The Year of the Flood features a bunch of hymns sung by a sort of weirdo post-apocalyptic group. Her agent contacted someone after she wrote the manuscript, had him set the hymns to music, and she went on book tour with the guy. The site for the book is here; click on "The Music" for information about how the project came to be, and recordings.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:46 PM on April 8, 2010

This happens frequently. Try watching filmed adaptations of Alice in Wonderland to see how different directors and composers have handled the various songs and poems.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:47 PM on April 8, 2010

Yeah, Lee Hoiby has an art song from Jabberwocky from Through the Looking Glass, some of which you can hear sung here.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:54 PM on April 8, 2010

Speaking of Terry Pratchett, there is a whole lot of Discworld songs (including quite a few versions of The Hedgehog Can't Be Buggered at All).
posted by Kattullus at 12:55 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

The animated Hobbit has a few of these.
posted by mkb at 12:59 PM on April 8, 2010

Also, there was a bonus CD of music from "Anathem" last year, I think.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:08 PM on April 8, 2010

How about any of the songs in Shakespeare's works? Only the verses survive; if there was any music written down for them, it's long since been lost. Modern adaptations all have different takes on how they should sound.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:13 PM on April 8, 2010

The Hobbit was the first thing I thought of, since I just finished reading it to my kids. Tolkien loved putting in little snippets of verse, which kind of makes it awkward when you're reading the material to someone else. I was reading and thinking, "I wonder if the old Hobbit cartoon put these verses to music?" I guess I'll have to check that out!
posted by Alaska Jack at 1:17 PM on April 8, 2010

A Midsummer Night's Dream has songs too. Maybe some other Shakespeare?

If you literally want songs no one had ever heard before, there's Mermaid Avenue -- two CDs of Woody Guthrie songs that didn't have music until Billy Bragg and Wilco wrote the melodies and recorded them.
posted by clavicle at 1:19 PM on April 8, 2010

There is also a book called The Road Goes Ever On which is a song cycle based on songs in Tolkien's books. It was written by Donald Swann with Tolkien's approval and published in 1967. I recall not liking the music much but it might be worth a second look.
posted by Polyhymnia at 1:42 PM on April 8, 2010

The Tolkien Ensemble are a Danish group who have recorded the complete songs and poems from the Lord of the Rings and are notable to me for making Tom Bombadil not only tolerable but downright catchy.
posted by mayhap at 2:02 PM on April 8, 2010

The Green Hills of Earth which is a song by Heinlein )from the short story & collection of the same name) has been put to music by a lot of filkers. There are several different tunes it is sung to.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 2:35 PM on April 8, 2010

Ursula LeGuinn's Always Coming Home — which isn't exactly a novel; more like an exercise in world-building or a set of fictional anthropological field notes — came with a tape of "traditional music" from the culture described in the book. I got my copy used, and it was missing the tape, so I don't know if the songs are any good.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:22 PM on April 8, 2010

There's a Steely Dan version if the Alice In Wonderland song Lobster Quadrille.
posted by irisclara at 11:09 PM on April 8, 2010

The Stephen King book "The Stand" features a fictional hit song called "Baby, Can You Dig Your Man?"

The band Self recorded a song with this title, which I love, and can be found here.
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:37 AM on April 9, 2010

Donald Swann recorded "The Road Goes Ever On" on a Caedmon LP about 40 years ago--I used to have a copy. (May still have, but if so it's in storage.) I don't think it's ever been re-released on CD.
posted by Logophiliac at 1:39 PM on April 10, 2010

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