Tag Archives: heavy metal

Story and Song: Visual Art Edition, Part 4

Welcome to the fourth installment of my blog series that I’m calling Story and Song: Visual Art Edition. Each post will feature a modern/contemporary song from the playlist of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, and a piece of artwork that features in the novel. I’ll describe how both fit into the story with a minimum of spoilers!

In This Moment – “Dirty Pretty”

This song, as you’ll hear if you listen to it, is dark and heavy and gritty. The lyrics talk about a woman being objectified, and how she wants to rise above that. This song was a no-brainer on the playlist for Simonetta’s story. As those of you who have read The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence will know, at times Simonetta is flattered by the attention she gets because of her looks and enjoys it, and at other she finds it ridiculous and even threatening. I felt this was a realistic way for her to interact with her beauty and that kind of attention. This song goes with chapter 32, in which Marco tries to trade on his wife’s beauty in a way that she is not at all okay with, and she lets him know. She feels angry and ashamed and dirty, even though she herself didn’t do anything wrong, and upset at how people see her. So she stands up for herself. I always imagined her walking away from Marco at the end of her argument with some of the lyrics from this song in her head: “I won’t close my eyes/Like you want me to/I am wild and free/I am untameable/And more than you’ll ever see/More than just your dirty pretty”.

 

Adoration of the Magi – Botticelli

In the novel, Botticelli at one point mentions that he is working on this painting, a commission for the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, and in fact that is just where it was really painted for. In chapter 34, Simonetta goes to the church to see it, and recognizes some familiar figures. In what was a common practice at the time, Botticelli included his patrons in the painting: the man in the red cloak kneeling in the center is Piero de’ Medici, father of Lorenzo and Giuliano; the man in darker red at the far left edge is Giuliano de’ Medici, and the man in black to the right of Piero is Lorenzo de’ Medici. The Medici were particular fans of the Adoration of the Magi motif – the private chapel in their palazzo has a fresco of the same theme, painted by Benozzo Gozzoli – because they were the only rich men in the Bible who made it into heaven. A fitting choice for a family of fabulously wealthy and at times ruthless bankers.

And finally – as Simonetta recognizes in the novel when she goes to see the painting – the figure in yellow at the far right edge of the painting, looking back at the viewer, is a self-portrait of Sandro Botticelli himself. Artists often painted self-portraits into scenes like this, and in Renaissance art you can always tell which one is the artist because he will be looking directly out of the painting and at the viewer.

This painting hangs today in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and I saw it in person when I visited doing research for the novel. Of course, I made sure to say hi to Botticelli 🙂


Story and Song: Visual Edition, Part 3

Welcome to the third installment of my blog series that I’m calling Story and Song: Visual Art Edition. Each post will feature a modern/contemporary song from the playlist of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, and a piece of artwork that features in the novel. I’ll describe how both fit into the story with a minimum of spoilers!

 

Stream of Passion – “Closer”

This lovely song speaks of passion, art, and connection, so it was a natural choice for the playlist of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence. For me, this song fit especially perfectly with the scenes in the book when Simonetta is posing for Botticelli’s first portrait of her – the one he paints shortly after her marriage to Marco. It’s a moody and beautiful song, so it seemed to go perfectly with those moments when Simonetta is first aware that her feelings for Sandro, as she calls him, are perhaps more than just friendly, though she doesn’t yet confront them or indeed know how to deal with them.

 

Idealized Portrait of a Lady – Sandro Botticelli

This portrait, widely believed to be of Simonetta Vespucci, was not in fact painted until after her death. However, in the novel I chose to have Botticelli paint the portrait sooner, and have it be the one that Simonetta poses for. I tried to describe it as best I could in the novel. I think it really is a beautiful painting, and I think that Simonetta would have liked it very much had she seen it. So in the novel I had her react in just that way to it, and she is proud that she could contribute to the making of such a piece of artwork.


Story and Song: Visual Art Edition, Part 2

Welcome to the second installment of my blog series that I’m calling Story and Song: Visual Art Edition. Each post will feature a modern/contemporary song from the playlist of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, and a piece of artwork that features in the novel. I’ll describe how both fit into the story with a minimum of spoilers!

 

Serenity – “The Perfect Woman”

This song, from Serenity’s concept album Codex Atlanticus about Leonardo da Vinci, nevertheless fits in PERFECTLY with the Simonetta and Sandro’s story. It’s about an artist who is consumed with the painting that he is working on, and about the woman who is the muse helping him bring the work to life. It could have been written for The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, honestly. It exactly captures the relationship and atmosphere between Simonetta and Sandro as she poses for his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

 

Return of Judith to Bethulia and The Discovery of the Body of Holofernes – Sandro Botticelli

  

The two paintings above are a set painted by Botticelli around the time The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence begins and were at one point in the possession of the Medici family. In the novel, I have Lorenzo de’ Medici displaying them with the Donatello statue of Judith that I mentioned in my previous Story and Song post. They are the first example of Botticelli’s work that Simonetta encounters, and she is fascinated by them, before she meets the artist himself. Judith, for those unfamiliar with the story, was a Jewish widow who sneaked into the tent of enemy general Holofernes the night before he was to attack her town and seduced him. Then, while he slept, she cut off his head (and took it with her), thus saving her people. It’s a powerful story about a woman who takes power into her own hands, and so the equally powerful and striking depictions of her that Simonetta sees are both awe-inspiring and simply inspiring to her.

These two (small) panels are both in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence today.

 


The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence Playlist!

Below is the official playlist for The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence. Enjoy and happy listening!


Story & Song: Part 6

Welcome to the sixth installment of my blog series that I’m calling Story & Song. Each post will feature two pieces of music: a modern/contemporary song from the playlist of The Violinist of Venice, and a piece of Vivaldi’s music that features in the novel. I’ll describe how both pieces fit into the story with a minimum of spoilers!

Within Temptation – “Forgiven”

This lovely ballad goes with Chapter 68, which I also titled “Forgiven”. It is hard to say too much without giving some of the story away for those of you who haven’t read the novel, but in this scene, Adriana and Vivaldi are meeting again years after the “main events” of the first half of the novel, and Adriana realizes that she no longer bears him a grudge for the wrongs that he did her so long ago. The lyrics of this song fit so perfectly with her thoughts, with their situation, with the history of their relationship. I would always listen to it when revising this scene!

 

“Cosi potessi anch’io” from the opera Orlando furioso

This is the aria performed by Anna Giro in her role as Alcina in Vivaldi’s opera Orlando furioso, in Chapter 67 of the novel. As Anna Giro truly did originate this role, Vivaldi wrote this aria especially for her and for her voice. As you can no doubt hear, it is beautiful and wistful and full of longing. The lyrics of the A section translate roughly to, “If only I could also have with the one I love the peace that my heart cannot find.” In the novel, as Anna sings these words, Adriana reflects on them in relation to her own life.

I have performed this aria several times myself, and I just love singing it. It is fun to sing from a technical aspect, and fits my voice well; it’s also fun from the performance aspect for the emotion I can inject into it. I wanted to learn it because I knew I would need to write a scene such as the one in Chapter 67, and this seemed like the perfect aria. I also loved the feeling of connection that learning and singing this piece gave me to the characters in my novel. When I sang it, I could pretend, for a moment, that I was a part of the story I was writing.


Story & Song: Part 2

Welcome to the second installment of my blog series that I’m calling Story & Song. Each post will feature two pieces of music: a modern/contemporary song from the playlist of The Violinist of Venice, and a piece of Vivaldi’s music that features in the novel. I’ll describe how both pieces fit into the story with a minimum of spoilers!

Welcome to Part 2 of Story & Song! Today’s post features an artist who will surely be appearing in this series a few more times – my favorite band of all time, Nightwish.

 

Nightwish – “She Is My Sin”

This song first appeared on the Finnish heavy metal band’s 2000 album, Wishmaster. It has since been given new life as the band has performed it live on their recent tours with new lead singer Floor Jansen, and it was included on their 2013 live album/DVD Showtime, Storytime, a recording of their performance at Wacken Open Air that year (which is where the above video comes from). The band played it when I saw them live in Buffalo in April, and I was rocking out and dancing like crazy through the whole thing (causing Marco Hietala, the bass player, to keep looking over at me approvingly – I was right down in front!).

This is a song for the first love scene in The Violinist of Venice, and in listening to the song I’m sure you can see why – it’s a sexy, groovy song, and the lyrics speak of temptation and forbidden desire – perfect for my two main characters, who are embarking on a very forbidden relationship indeed.

 

Concerto for 2 Violins in A Minor, Op. 3, No. 8, II. Larghetto e spirituoso

The second movement is what is most important to the story out of this concerto, though the entire thing does figure into the novel in a later chapter. Start the above video at 3:24 to hear the second movement.

This movement appears in the novel in chapter 5, when Adriana arrives for a lesson with Vivaldi and he asks her to play it with him, as it is something he has been working on. The two play the movement together and, as I think you’ll hear, Adriana is struck by its emotional beauty. It’s an important scene because it’s the moment when the attraction between these two main characters manifests itself for the first time, and the reader gets to see how they react to it.


Story & Song: Part 1

Welcome to the first installment of my new blog post that I’m calling Story & Song. Each post will feature two pieces of music: a modern/contemporary song from the playlist of The Violinist of Venice, and a piece of Vivaldi’s music that features in the novel. I’ll describe how both pieces fit into the story with a minimum of spoilers!

As I’m sure I’ve said before, writing and music are inextricably linked for me. The Violinist of Venice is an obvious and literal example of this: the book deals mostly with music and its effect on a life, and includes musicians as its main characters. But even when I’m writing a story that doesn’t have any music at all (which doesn’t happen that often, to be honest) music is an integral part of my process. I have to listen to music when I write; it seems to unlock something in my brain. More than that, I am constantly building playlists for each novel that I work on, finding the perfect song for each scene and to describe what is happening in the lives of the characters. Sometimes listening to these songs gives me more insight into a situation or a character than I would have had otherwise. These playlists – while certainly fun to make – are helpful in another way too: I’ll load them onto my iPod and listen to the playlist of a work-in-progress while at work, or while exercising. This helps keep my head in the game, so to speak, and keeps my project on my mind and keeps me thinking and daydreaming about it when I can’t actually be working on it.

So I’m hoping that this Story & Song series can help give some insight into my creative process and inspiration for The Violinist of Venice, as well as introducing you to some of the beautiful and powerful music written by Antonio Vivaldi that appears in the novel.

 

Lacuna Coil – “Spellbound”

This song was the lead single off of Italian heavy metal band Lacuna Coil’s 2009 album, Shallow Life. You can read a little more about this album and its impact on The Violinist of Venice in this previous post. This album came out not long after I’d started writing the first draft of the novel, and “Spellbound” perfectly captured for me the attraction, interest, and tension that manifests between Adriana, my heroine, and Vivaldi in the first few chapters. The lyrics talk about – as you might expect – being spellbound, being unable to get someone out of your mind even when you’re not quite sure why. I tended to go for this song when writing/revising/reading through chapters four and five (chapter five is actually titled “Spellbound”, in a shout-out to this song).

 

Concerto for 4 Violins in B Minor, Op. 3, No. 10, I. Allegro

This is the most important piece of music – to me, anyway – that is described in the novel, specifically the first movement of the concerto. I first heard it not long after writing the first chapter of the book, and I fell absolutely in love with it right away. As such it made its way into the novel right away: this is what Vivaldi plays for Adriana (parts of it, anyway) at their first lesson in chapter two, when she asks to hear him play. He plays it again for her later on in the novel, and has a whole orchestra play it for her at an even later point.

To me, this piece of music is so lively, so passionate; but the fact that it’s in B minor gives it something of a hungry, desperate edge. It was perfect for the novel as a whole, as well as simply being a beautiful and powerful piece of music, one that I can (and have) listen to countless times and never grow tired of.