With Huntress, I knew from the beginning that the book would be based in Chinese culture, so I started listening to some traditional Chinese music that I had. However, I quickly realized that it was too Chinese. I wasn’t going for an accurate recreation of Imperial China in my novel; I was going for a culture that felt much more like a hybrid of Chinese, Japanese, and Western influences. So I needed to find music that was created at an Asian crossroads.
The first music that really got me thinking about Huntress was the album Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon, from Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. One piece that just gripped me from the beginning was “Summer in the High Grassland,” composed by Zhao Jiping, who has also composed a number of film scores for Chinese director Zhang Yimou. This piece really captures the feeling that I wanted to evoke in much of Huntress. Which, um, may be a spoiler if you’re into music interpretation. :)
On Silk Road Journeys, the piece is performed by Yo-Yo Ma, but I couldn’t find a rendition of that online. Instead, I found this amazing live performance by duo Jalal on YouTube:
That piece just gets me every time! It’s so incredible!
I also listened to parts of various soundtracks, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, composed by Tan Dun, and Memoirs of a Geisha, composed by John Williams. Yo-Yo Ma performs on these two albums, too, so clearly I was really into the cello!
In addition to the orchestral works above, I listened to a lot of songs. Here is a pared-down list of the songs I most associate with writing Huntress (videos provided when available):
2. “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs — I love the intensity of this song, and its certainty. “They don’t love you like I love you.”
3. “Open Your Eyes” by Snow Patrol — For me, this song is about a slow build to a grand conclusion.
4. “In My Place” by Coldplay — I also like this song for the slow build.
5. “Frozen” by Madonna — This song reminds me of [name redacted] in the book. Guess who? Also: one of the coolest videos ever!
6. “Little Wild One” by Joan Osborne — I just love this song. It is achey and beautiful.
7. “Moment of Surrender” by U2 — Also achey and beautiful. “I’ve been in every black hole/At the altar of the dark star.”
8. “Angelhead” by Supreme Beings of Leisure — This is a makeout song, albeit a kind of melancholy one.
9. “The Full Sentence” by Pigeonhed — Another makeout song. (You can’t have just one.)
10. “Explode” by Uh Huh Her — This is the song I associate most with Huntress. I will let you guess why. (It has nothing to do with the video, which I find kinda weird!)
11. “Starts With One” by Shiny Toy Guns — I like this song because of the percussion driving it forward, but actually the lyrics are kind of appropriate for the climax of the book.
12. “White as Snow” by U2 — This song encapsulates, for me, the end of Chapter 37.
13. “Skeletons” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs — This song just felt right to me.
14. “Wait Another Day” by Uh Huh Her — Bittersweet love song alert!
15. “With Every Heartbeat” by Robyn — Another bittersweet love song. Hopefully with hope at the end?