Music in Spanish: When Music Inspires Literature: Award-winning writers reveal their life-changing songs | United States


It wasn’t just the first book ever read or the fairy tales told by grandparents that inspired literature. More and more writers claim that music has given them divine tutelage. Many admit that their calling came to them when they were children not through other books, but through songs with lyrics that left stories and feelings imprinted in their minds, even though they were sometimes hard for them to grasp. a young mind.

Literature’s debt to music as the spark that awakened the desire to write is evident in names such as Sergio Ramírez through boleros, Wendy Guerra with Cubain sones, Lorena Salazar Masso via Nina Simone, Miguel Ángel Oeste and the Beatles, María Fernanda Ampuero with ballads from the 1970s and 1980s and Summer Pierre’s love of Suzanne Vega.

The first breath of inspiration for Nicaraguan writer Ramírez, winner of the Cervantes Prize in 2018, came from pure sentiment. “I come from the days of romantic boleros, the first of which I remember was Back gardenias, sung by Daniel Santos on an old gramophone, and cumbanchera music we danced to in old Mexican movies with tropical settings, palm trees and timpani drums, sung by María Antonieta Pons, Tongolele, Ninón Sevilla and Rosa Carmina. And I was steeped in the music of my uncles and aunts, performed by them in the Ramírez orchestra, whose members rehearsed in my grandfather Lisandro’s house, from foxtrots to waltzes and back to boleros.

Cuban writer Wendy Guerra, 50, comes from more catchy rhythms. She remembers when she was a young girl in the Martí Park in the city of Cienfuegos when Barbarito Díez was performing with Antonio María Romeu’s group: “He stood stiff, keeping his emotions in check; what I heard that night, the music and the lyrics, changed the way I understood things. What Guerra heard was The kleptomana, with music and lyrics by Agustín Acosta and Miguel Luna, who “told how a mysterious woman stole everything she could from an old store and also described where and how she did it with an enigma and sophistication that are rare in Cuban music, which usually details everything and keeps no secrets. Later came the old ballads, sung by María Teresa Vera and Compay Primero Lorenzo Herrezuelo. Anonymous songs like El hummingbird (The hummingbird) transported Guerra on “a journey of hidden stories that I needed to wake up and recompose” – a journey she says she stays on.

A page from the graphic novel ‘All the Sad Songs’ by Summer Pierre.

For María Fernanda Ampuero, 39-year-old Ecuadorian writer and one of the rising stars of Latin American storytelling through her books Cock fight and Human sacrifices, it was impossible not to hear Spanish ballads and Latin American pop music. “He was still playing in the mu house and on the 10 hour trips from Guayaquil to Quito. My father was a music lover, he had boxes of CDs and cassettes that he recorded himself. These included music ranging from the Spanish Mocedades and Julio Iglesias to Emmanuel and Ana Gabriel and many artists from the 1980s. “All that foam of tragic songs, then the pasillos my grandmother was listening, and later my own choices, like Mecano, where every song is a story, are part of my literary upbringing, says Ampuero.

As Darío Jaramillo said in 2008, in his book Poesía en la música popular latinoamericana: a cancionero (Where, Poetry in Latin American Popular Music: A Songbook): “These songs have shaped the way love is felt and expressed in generations of Latin Americans. There is a poetry in these songs that is different from the poetry of reading silently. They have a different rhetoric and aesthetic. There is poetry to see and poetry to hear, ”wrote the Colombian poet, author and essayist.

“When I heard Nina Simone sing, I thought about how I wanted to write as she sang. Because of the power she has when she sings and because she understands her songs like poems, ”says Lorena Salazar Masso, a 29-year-old Colombian writer, who recently published her first novel. Esta herida llena from peces (Where, This wound full of fish).

The Beatles in an undated performance.
The Beatles in an undated performance. PA

Spaniard Miguel Ángel Oeste recounts a similar experience. His novel Arena (Where, Sand) opens with a line from Spanish indie rock band Los Planetas: “If it’s okay, if it’s so easy, why does it hurt so much on the inside?” »Oeste was 10 years old when he discovered the music that would shape his life. It was a way of experiencing the feelings and emotions depicted in the songs as if they were your own. “I was fascinated by this almost infinite capacity of a good pop song to immerse us in other realities and sensations. This is probably where my first connection with the written word came. In these Beatles lyrics that evolved from their simplest (‘she loves you Yeah Yeah Yeah’) to more complex, almost literary ones, in which they created characters with their own life (Eleanor Rigby), or those who told us about taboo subjects like death. Later also in these words of Los Planetas which knew how to transmit a strong emotional charge, even political.

One of the members of the latest wave of writers to combine literary and musical notes to explain the influence of music on their vocation is comic book artist Summer Pierre, whose graphic novel All the sad songs was nominated for an Eisner Award. The song that awakened the literary inspiration of this American artist, which contributes to the The New Yorker and The New York Times, was The queen and the soldier by Suzanne Véga. She was 17 and had never heard a song like this. “It was like a story, but in a song. There is no refrain, it was a long ballad, a beautiful and touching story of a soldier who tells his queen that he no longer fights for her. It is a beautiful tale where you can clearly visualize the image of the young and fragile queen and the angry but tender soldier. “

Beyond inspiration for other art forms, music is also a refuge and a lifeline. This was the case with Ramón Andrés, who recently won the Spanish National Essay Award for his work Filosofía y consuelo of music (Where, Philosophy and comfort of music), that he admits to being born in a house where everything was in discord. “My father was an amateur violinist and my sister studied vocals. At only four years old, I felt that music saved me from this violent chaos. He was a constant liberator. I have never been separated from it. Music has been my refuge. Studying music and writing was the only thing that interested me and that impulse brought me here today. Andrés was a professional musician for a decade, but in 1984 he decided to devote himself to writing. “In fact, I have never left music, it accompanies me every day, I write about it, I think about it, I owe it everything; this is my salvation.

Why music awakens new feelings and emotions in children and adolescents is a mystery. Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker and author of books including The rest is noise: listening to the twentieth century and the recently published Wagnerism: art and politics in the shadow of music, explains it as follows: “Listening to music is a kind of trance: the most cognitive part relaxes and stays behind. Sounds speak to us in a language that guides us through our inner selves and leads us to unfamiliar ideas, feelings and emotions. Like feeling the impulse to translate this experience into writing books.


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