The Use of Music to Convey Mood and Emotion

Music is often used by authors as an indicator of mood and emotion. To do so effectively, they must decide how much detail to provide to convey their message so that the reader does not necessarily need to be familiar with the piece.

One of the allusions to death in my new novel, Another Life, is expressed in the form of a musical extract that one of the characters hears and recognises on two occasions. 

As suggested by its title, In Paradisum is ethereal, a plea for the angels in heaven to receive the departed soul, conveyed in the words, May the angels lead you into paradise’. The strings create the impression of a reassuring cloud accompanied by repeated arpeggios on the organ, its stops marked ‘voix céleste, gamba’. The 16th notes provide a sense of eternity.

My experience of listening to this section is one of peace, of being lifted serenely towards a yet-to-be-revealed heaven, without fear of what is to come. The composer is recorded as having written to a friend that he viewed death ‘as a happy deliverance, an aspiration to happiness above rather than as a painful experience’.  There are no suggestions of purgatory or hell.

The extract is heard a second time, at the end of the book, as part of the resolution.

Fauré took the text of In Paradisum not from the requiem Mass, but from the Catholic  Order of Burial. When researching Another Life, I discovered that In Paradisum was the inspiration for the Gospel-jazz piece ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’. Both share the same first four notes and are used during the funeral procession of the body from the church to the cemetery.

Here is a recording of In Paradisum sung by the choir of King’s College Cambridge.