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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

The sound of (Austen) music

Music plays intermittent cameo roles in Jane Austen’s novels: think of Mary Bennet delighting us long enough in Pride and Prejudice, or Anne Elliot wearily cranking out dance tunes for the oblivious Musgrove girls in Persuasion.

Music is even more important in making the many screen adaptations of Austen’s work memorable and distinctive, from the jangly ‘90s pop of Clueless to the yearning innocence of Marianne Dashwood singing her way into Colonel Brandon’s heart in the 1995 Sense and Sensibility.

To satisfy all your Austen music needs, it turns out that the audio streaming platform Spotify includes among its offerings a thirty-track “Jane Austen Soundtracks” playlist – a total of about an hour and forty-two minutes of music.

The playlist includes eight pieces – popular songs and classical works -- from the Austen family’s music collection; twenty tracks drawn from sixteen Jane Austen-related movies, whether straight-up adaptations of the novels, modernizations like Aisha and Bridget Jones’s Diary, or Austen-themed confections like Austenland and The Jane Austen Book Club; and one song from First Impressions, the 1959 Broadway musical of Pride and Prejudice.

Among the selections are Carl Davis' familiar theme music to the BBC’s beloved 1995 adaptation of P&P; a version of “Robin Adair,” the traditional song that Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill sing together in Emma; and a Radiohead track from Clueless. (I don’t know how long the playlist has been available on Spotify; the most recent recording seems to be from Love & Friendship, the 2016 movie adaptation of Lady Susan.)

The mathematically adept among you will have noticed that the above accounting adds up to only twenty-nine. Yes, as I noted, there is a thirtieth item on this “Jane Austen Soundtracks” playlist. It is Carl Davis' theme music from Cranford, the 2007-09 BBC adaptation of the 1853 novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. Who is not Jane Austen. It seems that Spotify has delighted us long enough.

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