Is there a special term for composing/melodizing a fictional song?

Some novels have songs with made-up lyrics written by the authors; and sometimes, music is composed for those songs in real life.

For example, there is a fictional song called The Bear and the Maiden Fair from the novel A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. Later, for the TV show Game of Thrones, they composed music for the song.

The producers of Game of Thrones enlisted Brooklyn indie rock band The Hold Steady to record a version of the song, with music composed by Ramin Djawadi. Their cover of the song plays during the end credits for episode 3 of Season 3, "Walk of Punishment".


I did some research and couldn't find a term for what I am looking for; but I found something different (almost vice versa) but related:

In Elmegreen’s novel “Reveille,” written as his thesis project, the thoughts and emotions of the main character, a musician named Spencer, and others sometimes emerge as musical notes rather than words.

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It is described as writing the melody of a novel and composing the soundtrack of silent reading.

  • Doesn't soundtrack cover your definition? : the sound recorded on a film, esp. music or dialogue.
    – user66974
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 5:29
  • I've always wondered if there's a term for, not melody but simply when poetry appears in a Novel (eg, popular examples Tolkein, JK Rowling, etc).
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 7:38
  • The general term for composing music to fit a poem is "set," but that doesn't fit your retirement for a word specific to poems from fiction.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 8:37

3 Answers 3


In the Bard's Much Ado about Nothing, Act 5 has a line

Can labour ought in sad invention, / Hang her an epitaph upon her tomb / And sing it to her bones, sing it to-night:

And at the end of the same Act,

Think not on him till to-morrow: / I'll devise thee brave punishments for him. / Strike up, pipers.

Note that while Shakespeare wrote the words that would be sung for the dirge, he did not compose music for either the dirge or the dance. But when a composer composes or a musician or actor improvises, they are creating incidental music.

Consider another Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night's Dream. The Bard did not compose music for the play. But consider what would be composed by Felix Mendelssohn more than two hundred years later.

Later, in 1842, only a few years before his death, he wrote incidental music (Op. 61) for a production of the play, into which he incorporated the existing Overture. The incidental music includes the world-famous Wedding March.

(Emphasis added.)

The term to describe the process would be:

Composing incidental music.

By the way, when a composer writes a piece after a fictional hero, such as Strauss concerning Don Quixote, it is called a Tone Poem. A similar term is used for Liszt's portrayal of Faust or Hamlet or Prometheus: a Symphonic Poem.


Well, fiction created by fictional authors within their fictional world is commonly referred to as "metafiction". But I would argue that the song in question isn't actually the same entity as the original fictional song. They created a real song, which would make what they're doing just plain old songwriting. It's just a song "based on" or "inspired by" the original fictional song.

  • Thanks for trying. Yes it becomes a real song but I wondered if there is a special term or jargon for this process. Maybe "metafictional composing"? (however, I just made up based on your answer, there might be a more established term).
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 16:00
  • I guess the U.S. Copyright Office would call it a "derivative work". Not very poetic-sounding, that. Or you might call it an "extended" work. Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 16:19

How about

a song within a novel

(inspired by "a play within a play")

  • 2
    'How about' usually introduces a dubious suggestion. There are extremely few mentions of this phrase on the internet. And the two there are seem not to have the meaning OP requests. Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 14:02

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