Thursday, April 16, 2020

Bookshelf Symphony Orchestra

I've never made it a secret that my love of books is only matched by my love of music. So today I am very happy to bring you the best of both things. Welcome, to the Bookshelf Symphony Orchestra!

The Bookshelf Symphony Orchestra is an instrumental concept album created for readers and writers. Over the course of 2 years, Austin Farmer teamed up with brothers Addam and Heath Farmer to help produce, co- arrange, and mix/master the album, bringing over a decade of experience in the music industry to the project. Every song is titled after the novel it was inspired by and couldn’t have been created without those stories. Austin’s previous songs have been featured on Nickelodeon, CBS, Fox Sports, and a national Sprint TV campaign with indie rock bands Island Apollo and The Bolts. Musical influences on this album include songs from many of the instrumental playlists he’d listen to while writing fiction, including Two Steps From Hell, Bear McCreary, and Joe Hisaishi.

His short story “Beethoven’s Baton” is featured in Baker Street Irregulars, co-edited by Michael A. Ventrella and NYT Bestselling Author Jonathan Maberry.


1. What made you decide to compose songs based on books?

That’s a great question! I started composing songs based on books because sometimes when I’m reading, I get so inspired by certain sections of prose that I have to create something myself. Many of these songs were originally drafted in one sitting, including the song for Truthwitch, but we took months and months to rearrange and produce everything you hear in the final album.

For The Bookshelf Symphony Orchestra, I was heavily inspired by instrumental writing playlists that I listen to when I’m writing. I have listened to the same playlists so many times I’ve lost count, including music by Two Steps From Hell, Thomas Bergersen, Joe Hisaishi, and more. I thought to myself, how cool would it be for someone to write an entire album of new instrumental music created for writers to listen to while they’re working?

2. What was it about Truthwitch that inspired you to write a song? Was it a scene or a character that guided the tone of the song?

Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1, Published by Tor Teen) by New York Times Bestselling Fantasy & Sci-Fi Author Susan Dennard is such an amazing novel. Without giving too much away, I was inspired by one scene in particular, where an orchestra plays music in a ballroom dance sequence during an important moment for one of the main characters, and this was my rendition of a song the orchestra plays.

For this scene, I wanted to channel Susan’s awesome world building and the drama of the scene into the arrangement of the song. I wanted to create a Baroque-style song with an orchestra that would fit into the world of the scene, featuring a harpsichord, a string quartet, woodwinds, and more. This song in particular is a sort of Waltz in 3/4, where the beat falls on the 1, so there is a pulsing, dancelike quality.
Additionally, there are a few Baroque music genre techniques that my piano teacher would always talk about I wanted to bring into the song. One of them was called “fortspinnung"—meaning a theme of the melody would create the entire structure of the song using simple repetitions and variations. I channeled that element for the bridge of the song, where the theme is played in a major key instead of minor, set against a different arrangement of instruments, including a harp. I also used “terraced dynamics” featured in Baroque music, where there is a sudden change in volume or the amount of instruments used for a certain effect. You can also hear that in the bridge and the second section of the song, where the key is modulated to provide the variation for fortspinnung.

3. Do you have plans for a follow-up album? 

I would love to create a sequel for The Bookshelf Symphony Orchestra. This was about a 2 year process from start to finish, from writing, pitching the idea, re-arranging everything, mixing, and mastering the album with the help of my brothers Addam and Heath. It really was such a joy to create this album. I hope anyone who listens can feel the same sense of wonder I felt when reading these novels and are inspired to create their own art.


It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that I truly loved this album, and I am very curious to read the books that inspired these songs.


Austin Farmer is a musician, writer, and filmmaker from Southern California. His music has been featured on Nickelodeon, Fox Sports, and a national Sprint commercial. His short story “Beethoven’s Baton” is featured in Baker Street Irregulars Volume 1 (co-edited by Michael A. Ventrella and NYT Bestselling Author Jonathan Maberry).

Some fun facts:

  • I attended the Y’ALL (@Yallwest) West Writing Convention in 2018 a few years back and attended a “WRITING MUSIC, WRITING ABOUT MUSIC” panel. I asked a few authors if putting music out like this would be a good idea, and they suggested to go for it and put it out. I think they said to let them know if I ever did. That panel helped me get the courage to put out this music. I always wanted to find a way to thank them or Yallwest for that.
  • A lot of these songs were inspired by novels that I discovered because of Mysterious Galaxy Books (@Mystgalaxybooks) in San Diego. A lot of these authors had book signings, and I discovered a lot of these novels from those signings or different writing events, including the author of “Truthwitch” (Susan Dennard), “The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding” (Alex Bracken), “The Fold” (Peter Cines), and more (about 9 of them).
  • Social Media helped me put out this music. I originally put the demoes out on Twitter and tagged the authors, and their support helped give me the courage to put this out as an album, too.
  • My uncle played with The Beach Boys for about 12 years as their live bassist.
  • I am the singer of a Rush Tribute band.
  • My Band Island Apollo reached 2 million plays for our single “Hold It Down” on Spotify.

Twitter: @sot_tours
Instagram: @sot_tours

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