Dan Brown, author of “The Da Vinci Code,” didn’t have a TV or radio in his house growing up. His mother, a classical musician, and his father, a math teacher, encouraged the imagination, and so Brown read widely. Dr. Seuss was a favorite.
But Brown also spent many hours listening to her mother’s classic records. He said, for a while, that he didn’t even know other styles of music existed. They are among his fondest memories and inspired his latest work, a children’s book titled “Wild Symphony”, illustrated by Hungarian artist Susan Batori, which was released in September 2020 alongside 21 pieces of classical music that he also composed.
“I think my hope was to recreate that fusion between children’s books and classical music that I experienced and share it with modern kids,” Brown said in an interview.
The author, who grew up and lives in neighboring New Hampshire, has toured the world and will appear at Merrill Auditorium in Portland on Sunday, where he will read his book while the Portland Symphony Orchestra performs his music, conducted by director Eckart Preu.
Sunday’s show is the second of three in the symphony’s 2022 Discovery Concert Series, which is aimed at children ages 4 to 12. Artistic director Eva Tartaglia said the first show in this year’s series, on March 27, was the first concert uncovered in two years because of the pandemic.
“There’s a lot of great music aimed at kids, but providing good variety can be difficult,” she said. “The goal is to introduce them to symphonic music and perhaps provide them with an entertaining story.”
The pricing — tickets are just $10 — is also meant to appeal to all audiences. Shows last just under an hour, but kids also have the chance to meet and even try leading musicians beforehand.
Brown said the performances are aimed at children, but will also appeal to a wider audience.
“I think classical music can be intimidating to many or to people,” he said. “This hopefully has kids and parents saying, ‘Wait, can this be fun? ”
Each piece of music is written with a particular animal in mind, led by Maestro Mouse.
Although this is Brown’s first composed work for orchestra, he has a strong background in music. He studied music at Amherst College in Massachusetts and was a musician and songwriter long before becoming a successful fiction writer.
“People who know me aren’t surprised, but there are some whose reaction was, ‘Wait a minute. You wrote the music?'” he said. “I don’t see writing music as different from writing prose. You can’t write either if you don’t understand the structure, if you don’t understand the dynamics and the rhythm.
Brown said he accomplished what he wanted with “Wild Symphony,” but may do more songwriting in the future. Right now he’s working on another novel featuring symbology expert Robert Langdon, the protagonist of “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons.” He has since written three more books in this series. Three of his novels have been made into Hollywood films.
Brown said he always enjoys coming to Portland, which is an easy drive from his home in New Hampshire.
“I usually eat,” he laughed, when asked what he likes to do here. “You have very good restaurants.”