Monday, November 23, 2009

Variations on a Theme

In the music world, composers often take one theme--be it theirs or the melody of a previous composer--and write a new piece. This new piece that emerges can be a variation on the original theme. Sometimes, the new composer enjoys the theme so much that he creates more than one new variation. Here's The Source of All Truth (Wikipedia) on "Variations."

Last night, while watching the conclusion of the compelling "Collision"* on PBS's Masterpiece Contemporary, an idea struck me. Hey, what if...and I got Idea #1. I put it on a notecard and finished the program.

Afterward, while getting trounced in Scrabble by my wife (you don't want to know the score. Really.), I scribbled down a few more thoughts on Idea #1. That, of course, led to a modification of Idea #1, thus creating a new, separate notecard containing Idea #2. Both are decent and, undoubtedly, a third idea could emerge.

Thus my question: is there, in literature, a series of works that take the same basic premise and create variations? Variations on a Mugging? Variations on a Robbery?

Just wondering...

*"Collision" was created by Anthony Horowitz, the man who gave us "Foyle's War." I can't recommend "Foyle's War" highly enough. I've written about it before (here and here). Get thee to your local library and see if they have any of the seasons available. Or, of course, you could just buy it.


Charles Gramlich said...

Good question. I'm not really sure. There are "shared world" stories where we have different characters views of similar events in a story setting. Would that be kind of the same thing? Like the Thieve's World books?

Scott Parker said...

Not exactly. Take, for example, a story where a man is killed. Variation #1 would be to have the detective be a man who almost killed someone but didn't. Variation #2 would be that the man's wife, an Iraq vet, hunts down the killer. Variation #3 would be that the killer is linked to the mob and the mafia guys kill him. Stuff like that.

pattinase (abbott) said...

FOYLE'S WAR was a great one. I am saving the last season for a seasonal flu or some such disaster when I need cheering.

Barbara Martin said...

I saw a movie called 'Beyond Suspicion' with Jeff Goldblum who played an insurance salesman. There were separate endings provided. Great movie.

Scott Parker said...

Patti - Well, then, hurry up and get sick! ;-)

Barbara - Hmm, don't know that movie. Will keep an eye out for it.

Part of me thinks that this variation idea is simply me not wanting to nail down one certain story and stick to it. Another part of me thinks it might be a fun exercise. Think I'll just try and see what happens.

Perplexio said...

Wasn't this essentially the basis for the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books?

If you do "a" turn to page 4
If you do "b" turn to page 8

Didn't DC kind of do that with Batman in Gotham By Gaslight? I thought they spun off another book or two under the same Victorian era Batman premise. Variations on that same theme, if you will.

For musical "variations" I like Rachmaninoff's "Variations on a Theme by Pagianini." It was used somewhat extensively in the movie Somewhere in Time. I believe there was a music box in the shape of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island that played that piece. Then again, that whole score is one of John Barry's finest. Speaking of which, the Richard Mathieson novel that Somewhere in Time was/is based on, Bid Time Return is quite a good read.

When I first saw The Camerman with Buster Keaton & Marceline Day I was kind of inspired to di a "variation" on Somewhere in Time set in the silent film era. Where a man, loosely based on a cross between myself & Richard Collier goes back in time because he's fallen in love with a beautiful silent film actress (loosely based on Marceline Day). Don't know whether or not that's what you had in mind though.

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