All cultures have music even if not all have a label for their vocal or/and instrumental rhythm. They say music makes evolutionary sense, that it was invented to attract mating partners and also that singing might have evolved to sooth many at the same time as a way to bond. It also helps parents and their offspring to bond. It helps us coordinate with each other and helps us learn social and cognitive skills. We all know that a silly song about alphabets or countries makes us remember them better. But let’s not forget that music is all about helping us understand each other. It grows sympathy and empathy. Music is important for us, humans, socially and individually. Our brains seem to like it, making us happy and healthier. It is no wonder at some point Terry Pratchett would write about music. He dived into the fifties music revolution when rock’n’roll came and shook the world, spellbinding the youth.
Soul Music is about that revolution, but it is happening at Ankh Morpork, drawing in the Wizards, the trolls, and everyone who is affected by it even C.M.O.T Dibbler and we know the music business is made of people like him, and of course the talent (the poor unsuspecting fellow who is only there for the love of the music and is swept into the madness liked they it or not.) And of course, there is Susan whose grandfather decides that duty, life, and humanity is a weird cocktail and can cause heartburn.
Soul Music is a more coherent book than some Discworld novels. It has a normal story arch, and it feels well thought out. Yet, Soul Music isn’t one of my favorite books. It is okay, and I wouldn’t want to skip it. It is a needed history for Hogfather, one of my favorite books. But it is missing something. The individual scenes with Death, Susan, and the Wizard are amazing, but the scenes with the band don’t engage me. They feel like a necessary evil while they are an important part of the story.
But what I love is that Pratchett is toying with the idea of immortality and music (or any art for the matter.) He points out in several places how the musician continues living on in his or her music even when they die. And I think that is the closest we can get eternal life. We are still listening to Beethoven, Mozart, and my favorite Chopin decades after their death. Not to mention John Lennon’s Imagine which is a more appropriate reference to Soul Music. We need to die, or more like it is a fact of life. We can only hope to leave behind something valuable like in the book Susan with full of good memories of her parents. I think that is the only thing worth living for. We don’t know why we are here, but at least we can help each other out while at it. And when we go, at least we know we left behind more good than bad.