The Wall Street Journal: February 9, 2012
Salman Rushdie on His New Soundtrack, Sci-Fi Project and Memoir
Salman Rushdie was skeptical when a digital start up approached him about creating a soundtrack for one of his short stories. “I had to be convinced this was a good thing,” he said. “Normally when I read, I don’t like music playing.”
He agreed to give it a try. This week, Booktrack released a digital version of Mr. Rushdie’s short story “In the South,” which was originally published in the New Yorker in 2009. The Booktrack version of the story — which centers on a pair of cranky old men in southern India who are locked into a decades-old friendship and rivalry — unfolds with a synchronized, original musical score, created by composer John Psathas and played by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. The Indian-inflected orchestral music swells and accelerates at dramatic moments. Sound effects such as traffic, laughter, and the sounds of crashing waves and screams punctuate the music.
Mr. Rushdie said he was impressed with the orchestra’s work. He was particularly pleased when his 14-year-old son pronounced it “super cool,” he said. “What I didn’t want it to sound too much like was special effects,” he said.
Since its launch last August, Booktrack has released audio-enhanced versions of classics such as “Peter Pan,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” and “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” as well as a paranormal young adult novel. The titles sell through Booktrack’s app, which is available on personal computers and in the Apple and Android app stores, and range from $1.99 to $12.99. Mr. Rushdie’s story will be sold for $.99 through February, then for $1.99. So far, Booktrack has delivered some hits. Their enhanced Sherlock Holmes story, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” was downloaded more than 100,000 times from the Apple iTunes App Store. Brooke Geahan, Booktrack’s Vice President of Publishing, said the company is also creating software that will allow users to download their own music libraries and synchronize particular songs with the text. “It learns your reading speed,” she said.
Mr. Rushdie’s story marks a new push by the company into contemporary short fiction. Other upcoming works include “Solace,” a story by Jay McInerney about a post 9/11 sexcapade, and “The Dungeon Master,” a story by Sam Lipsyte.