Music oft hath such a charm to make bad good.
Shakespeare was a pioneer in the use of music in drama. In fact, he was pivotal to the way that music started being used in various forms of literature - especially in drama. His shaping of the application and variations of music in dramatic productions is apparent in films and television even to this day. Music formed a subtle link to the text and drama of his plays. It furthered the dramatic purpose of nearly all of Shakespeare's works, especially in his comedies. Shakespeare believed that music was healing and transformational. The power of music, he said, lay in its ability to ‘tame the savage beast’ – they way it could discipline nature. This thought process compelled him to use music in his dramatic works, and provide a thematic harmony among some of his most gripping songs.
In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare uses a lullaby to lull Titiana to sleep, to be later awakened by a song by Bottom, thereby starting a pattern on which fairy music puts people to sleep and human music wakes them up. Stephano and Caliban introduce us to the sea shanty in The Tempest. Likewise, another drinking song comes into being in Othello, as Cassio and Iago sing while they drink. In the same play, Desdemona’s emotional and famous song, ‘The Willows Song’, is a lover's complaint, which may be regarded as a Renaissance edition of the modern-day Blues. In this song, the descriptions summon Philomena, a nightingale, whose song has ever since been linked with love. Music in Shakespeare helped in numerous ways. The songs were categorised by the purpose they served. This helped in establishing the theme quite clearly. For instance, revelatory songs served the purpose of extracting the themes of the play or the complex components of a certain character's temperament down to a straightforward and understandable intensity. In As You Like It, Agnes Latham speaks of ‘feigned friendship’ as a theme, and states, “It is the songs that establish it as a theme in the play.”
Many modern writers have also used music in their works. Ivan Turgenev’s The Song of Triumphant Love, is a love story based on Turgenev’s real life love for Pauline, a singer. Set during the Renaissance, it speaks of the power of music over humans. Even Leo Tolstoy attempted a piece set with a musical backdrop. His novella, The Kreutzer
Sonata, was published in 1889, but was censored since it was considered too explicit in its dealing with the excesses of human emotion. Marcel Proust's Swann's Way carved out the consequence of music on Swann's thought patterns, while the personality endeavoured to seize the ephemeral emotions it stimulated. Music lovers are enthralled by a resonance that seemed to speak to their deepest person. Proust came very near to revealing the most indescribable feelings of musical response. He brought out, with an amazing accuracy, the feature of deep yearning, both sensual as well as pseudo-religious, like many composers of his time. Vikran Seth’s novel An Equal Music is an exceptional achievement, ‘a tender tour de force’. A perceptive evocation of musicians' lives in modern London, and an intriguing, often heart-rending tale of loss, it centres on the violinist hero, Michael, who is endangered by the confiscation of his much-loved violin. Julia, his former girlfriend, is a pianist undergoing the calamity of losing her hearing. Michael loses Julia, who marries another man and later becomes a mother. The whole novel is infused by the importance of music and the characters' dedication to it in spite of the heartache that goes along with its rewards. The book reaches a calm finale in the sound of Bach, whose Art of Fugue is described as ‘an equal music’. Michael moves beyond pain and discovers that “It is enough, it is blessed enough, to live from day to day and to hear such music - not too much, or the soul could not sustain
it - from time to time.”