High Variance

Complementarities of Literature and Music

Some things just go well together. I have friends who like to select just the right wine to go with their meal. Cookies always taste better with milk. And of course a PB&J sandwich is much better than a plain peanut butter sandwich or a plain jam sandwich. Economists are good at coming up with fancy names for obvious concepts, and we call these complementary goods.

Just because I don’t listen to music while I read doesn’t mean this idea can’t be applied to literature and music. Some songs or albums are inspired by good books, and listening to one makes you appreciate the other that much more. Even better is when a musician or band’s work creates a mood that perfectly matches an author’s vision. I’ve recently found the perfect example.

As regular readers of this site know, I am a huge fan of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. Conan himself is strong, principled, and fun-loving. He does all the things we want to do but are unable to because of either physical, legal, or sometimes moral constraints. To read Conan’s savage adventures is to be immersed in a fantastic and vividly portrayed land of magic and mayhem.

Amon Amarth is the white wine to Conan’s fish. They are a Swedish melodic death metal band whose songs are rich and powerful tales of battles between mortals and gods of the north. The drums, guitars, and vocals are fierce–just like Conan. Listening to their music on headphones is the perfect way to make a winter trip to the grocery store into an epic quest for sustenance. The fact is that words cannot do them justice. I hereby present to you the truly awesome Amon Amarth: