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Romantic thriller 'Nocturne' comes with a CD of Chopin favorites

Faiza Elmasry | Washington, DC 30 March 2010


Do you think a little music would enhance your reading experience? 

Musicologist, pianist and novelist Harrison Gradwell Slater thinks so. In fact, he's integrated music into the text of his new novel, "Nocturne." The romantic thriller comes with a CD of Chopin favorites performed by the author, to be played at specific points in the book.

'Nocturne' comes with a CD of Chopin favorites performed by the author, to be played at specific points in the book.
'Nocturne' comes with a CD of Chopin favorites performed by the author, to be played at specific points in the book.

Slater says playing Chopin is one of the greatest joys in his life. "Chopin's music touches me with its incredible nostalgia. It immediately brings us into a world of passion, and of great sensitivity."

"Nocturne" is Slater's second book and he wanted to experiment with giving his readers a chance to hear Chopin's music as part of the story, from beginning to end.

Slater's protagonist, Artemisia, is a photographer who travels from New York to Paris to photograph the places that were part of Chopin's life for a magazine story. The assignment comes just as she ends her relationship with her fiancé, Clifton, who has proven to be unstable and violent. While in Paris, she meets Matthew, a Chopin expert who will write the story that accompanies her photographs. As their relationship grows, Clifton appears in Paris and begins to stalk Artemisia.

Musicologist, pianist and novelist Harrison Slater integrated music into the text of his new novel.
Musicologist, pianist and novelist Harrison Slater integrated music into the text of his new novel.

Slater uses Chopin's "Prelude in E Flat Minor," to convey Clifton's disturbed state of mind and provides a leitmotif for his character.

The author says Chopin's music enhances the text in other ways. When an old diary revealing much of Chopin's past is discovered, Matthew and Artemisia travel to Warsaw to determine the document's authenticity. That's when Slater inserts a sentence into the text, suggesting his readers play track 11 on the CD - Chopin's "Mazurka in C Sharp Minor" - in which the composer uses Polish folk rhythms and modes.

Slater says it wasn't just Chopin's music that inspired his novel, it was the composer's life as well.

"There are many parallels between what goes on with this young couple - Artemisia being followed by her obsessed boyfriend who has turned into a killer - and what happened in the life of Chopin and his mistress George Sand, who was the famous novelist of the 19th century," he says. "For example, George Sand had to break up with her boyfriend. He didn't take it very well. That was when she had met Chopin and decided to live with Chopin. So he showed up one night and, if she hadn't run, he might have taken her life."

"Nocturne" is only one part of Slater's celebration of Chopin in the bicentennial year of the composer's birth. He is also artistic director of an international Chopin piano competition coming to his city of Boston in May.

Slater hopes providing a CD along with the book will give Chopin's admirers a chance to enjoy his music in a different setting while also introducing the great composer to a new generation.

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