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Phil Rickman introduces me to magical music

This is another post for the WordPress Weekly challenge “Moved by Music”

I read for infinite reasons, among them is the desire to be entertained and to expand my personal parameters. This week after a long break from Merrily Watkins, I read ‘The Smile of a Ghost’ by Phil Rickman. Whilst providing a good plot and characters Phil Rickman has introduced me to music which I am grateful to discover.


Thank goodness for YouTube all music is suddenly accessible. The soulful voice of Nick Drake reaches from beyond the grave, touching the heart and mind. Filling me with sadness at the loss of such fragile talent. This song is the last song on his last album and the words ‘Now we rise / And we are everywhere’ are inscribed on his headstone.


The song “Gloomy Sunday” or the “Hungarian Suicide Song” features in “The Smile of a Ghost”. I’m quite ashamed never to have heard it before as it has been covered by umpteen artists. This haunting song seems to have become a suicide anthem of sorts, the original singer Rezso Seress and his wife apparently both committed suicide after listening to it and it is claimed that countless suicides have played this song prior to their deaths. I do rather agree with one person on YouTube who commented “If you want to off yourself rather listen to ‘Baby’ by Justin Bieber.”

Bringing music into literature somehow brings the work to life, adding another dimension, a special cross-pollination of the arts. After reading ‘The Smile of a Ghost’ I also spent time researching the facts and myths around Ludlow Castle and the ghost of Marion de Bruer. I popped onto the Phil Rickman website and found that coincidentally the most recent Merrily Watkins book “The Magus of Hay” was released on the same day (7/11/13). I now have ‘The Remains of the Alter’ next to my bed. I have some catching up to do.


Update 22/11/13 – I am now reading ‘The Remains of the Alter’ and Phil Rickman has done it again, this time while I type this I am listening to ‘The Dream of Gerontias’ by Elgar. I listen to Classic FM quite often and grew up listening to the greats but I confess that I had never heard of Elgar. As the first few notes played, I got goosebumps all over. The music in this book is absolutely central to the story and it is an excellent read. Thank you to Phil Rickman for enriching me further.

9 comments

  1. I was also recently introduced to Nick Drake. Love his music (especially Time has told me & Northern sky)
    Such profound and meaningful lyrics.

  2. thank you for loving Nick Drake. he’s my Muse. tony

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