‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ mention spikes sales of 16th-century classical composer
In addition to single-handedly carrying the publishing world on its candle-wax-scorched back, Fifty Shades of Grey has gone ahead and boosted the music business as well.
According to The Guardian, the mention of a Thomas Tallis choral work called “Spem In Alium” amidst the pages of the finest S&M masterwork since that last thing you read on the Internet has rocketed the piece up the British classical music charts (rocketed being of course a relative term).
The 40-voice epic, composed around 1570 and recorded in 1985, has elbowed chart heavyweight Luciano Pavarotti from the top perch. Go ahead and sample it.
This is the piece of music that wealthy whips-and-wine enthusiast Christian Grey prefers as the soundtrack to his extracurricular activities. The piece gets a name check during this exchange:
“The singing starts again … building and building, and he rains down blows on me … and I groan and writhe … Lost in him, lost in the astral, seraphic voices … I am completely at the mercy of his expert touch,
“‘What was that music?’ I mumble almost inarticulately.
“‘It’s called Spem in Alium, a 40-part motet by Thomas Tallis.’
“‘It was … overwhelming.’”
You’re right, woman in a book I haven’t read whose name I can’t be bothered to learn but I know says, “Oh crap!” an awful lot during moments of pleasure, it is overwhelming.
Though honestly, it’s not the most ideal soundtrack to fetishized acts of violence. If you really want to go all out with your pain, there’s “It’s Hip to Be Square” or there’s nothing at all.
What’s perhaps most interesting is the fact that reading about a piece of music in a book has driven people to seek out said piece of music. Writers who build their fiction into the real world are bound to embrace certain elements of pop culture that illuminate their characters’ personalities and desires.
For example, a key passage in Jonathan Franzen’s critically acclaimed epic Freedom focuses on Conor Oberst. Not only does it provide historical context, but it also drives home the effects of Oberst’s music on Franzen’s characters — and likely, on Franzen himself.
Personally, reading Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity (an essential screed for young music journalists who aspire to a lifetime of mixtapes and heartbreak) provided excellent exposure to a handful of music that I had not yet been exposed to and that I was forced to seek out, including Captain Beefheart’s Safe as Milk and the work of Scottish dream-poppers Teenage Fanclub.
And though it was meant to be ironic, I took a renewed interest in Huey Lewis and the News after reading Patrick Bateman’s monologues about them in American Psycho.
So I ask you, dear readers: What artist, song, or album did you seek out after it was referenced in a novel? Let us know in the comments. (And I do realize that I somehow made two different American Psycho references in the same blog post — now if you’ll excuse me, I have reservations at Texarkana.)