If A Book Had A Song (playlist included!)

By Book Moon

By Book Moon

As a musician and composer I've found a lot of inspiration from the stories I read. I write programmatically, that is, my music usually has a story or is trying to convey a specific feeling or situation. I "borrow" a lot of ideas from novels that have had a great effect on me. I've always thought about what it would be like to "score" a novel, to write a musical accompaniment to a full-length book. I've since heard that some audiobooks are adding music between chapters or changes in narration. I don't think anyone's gone full-score. That would be....a long piece, but not impossible! 

 

Anyways, I digress. I kept myself to one song per book (very difficult). Kind of like composing, sometimes I would think of a story first and try and match that to music, or other times—the song would come first and the book would follow. Some songs or pieces correspond to the book's "vibe", some relate thematically to the lyrics or compositional textures, and some are more literal in how they relate. So if this list seems random, well, it is!

 

I hope you enjoy. The link pasted below will take you to a Spotify playlist with the songs listed in the same order as this corresponding book list.

 

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3Yt5tUJs9aofSTQ1smTw2g?si=YJ87WF9hStKbAmfFCZCdJA

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Philip K. Dick

$16.00 $14.72

A little on the nose to start us off. This is a jazz cover of a Radiohead song. "Paranoid Android"--Brad Mehldau covering Radiohead

The Green Mile: The Complete Serial Novel

Stephen King

$18.00 $16.56

Both King's book and Bjork's song center around stories of people on death row, though they are placed in very different circumstances and worlds. However, both situations are equally as terrifying. From the great Lars Von Trier and Bjork's movie-musical Dancer in the Dark. "107 Steps"--Bjork from Dancer in the Dark

This Is How You Lose the Time War

Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar

$14.99 $13.79

Now we're getting a little more "out". This is one of my favorite string quartet pieces written by one of my favorite living composers. The strange extended techniques, the textures and timbres—the overture hinting at the motifs of the forthcoming movements—all remind me of this novella. This is an enemies-to-lovers story about traveling the braids or strands of time in search of each other. The journey of both the piece and the novella feel the same to me. Poignant, futuristic, strange, beautiful, weird, unconventional, transcendent. "Orange"--composed by Caroline Shaw, performed by Attacca Quartet. To watch a live performance of the piece visit these links. The quartet is sensational. Ent'racte: https://youtu.be/0yzFg2DRSRU?t=149 Plan and Elevation: https://youtu.be/0yzFg2DRSRU?t=1252

Mostly Dead Things

Kristen Arnett

$15.95 $14.67

Ok, so I wanted something that could capture the "Florida-ness" of this novel, the grittiness, but also the inherent heart-ache to the story's central character and family. Tom Petty is from Florida and this is recorded live in Florida so check and check. It's a duet with Stevie Nicks so double bonus points there, and the song speaks to the main character's tangled mess of a life. You could say she's stuck on the inside. "Insider"--Tom Petty w/Stevie Nicks live in Gainesville, FL

Black Leopard, Red Wolf

Marlon James

$18.00 $16.56

This book paired with this song has the same vibe to me. It might just be my own individual ear. But I think the song sounds other-worldly, like a dark fantasy and also aggressive in its acknowledgment of personal strength and power. Basically, the main character of this novel is badass and so is this song. Not to mention that beat slaps. "Creator"--Santigold

Never Let Me Go

Kazuo Ishiguro

$16.00 $14.72

I just finished this novel (I know, I know, it took me long enough). And hoo-boy was it sad. Sad sad sad. Here's one of the saddest and most beautiful songs I've ever heard to go right along with it. Grab your tissues. "On the Nature of Daylight"--Max Richter

Neuromancer

William Gibson

$8.99 $8.27

I thought about Aphex Twin or something similar for this novel. Something computerized, algorithmic, un-human in creation. But I love St. Vincent and so should you. It evokes the same message: technology can make us complacent or it can make us something greater. Usually, we are blind to its influence, as St. Vincent suggests. "Digital Witness"--St. Vincent

To the Lighthouse

Virginia Woolf

$14.99 $13.79

To the Lighthouse is one of my favorite novels. Open my copy up and every other word is underlined. I like to look for music in novels and I found some here—probably because Woolf was thinking about music too when she was writing, which is one reason I picked Debussy. Both the author and composer were writing at the same time and her sister, a painter, was a part of the evolving Impressionist movement. Impressionism (in music) involved a lot of perfect fourths—quartal harmonies. Woolf mentions bells/chimes that ring at this interval throughout her novel. She's also very fond of musical metaphors and allusions. It's (I believe) a simple nod to the music she was probably listening to at the time. But not having researched it, it's just a guess. But this quote does lead me to believe I'm on to something: “I think of all my books as music before I write them.” (Virginia Woolf) "La Cathedrale Engloutie", Preludes Book 1--(The Underwater Cathedral) Claude Debussy

There There

Tommy Orange

$16.00 $14.72

I immediately thought of this song when I first read this book. And I feel validated because Tommy Orange put it on his official playlist for the novel. "There There"--Radiohead

The Dharma Bums

Jack Kerouac

$17.00 $15.64

Ok, so here's my favorite piece of 20th century music ever written. That doesn't mean these two Kerouac novels are my favorite, though, but I think John Adams had them in mind when writing this piece... "The Dharma at Big Sur", Pt. 1: A New Day--for solo (6 string!) electric violin and chamber orchestra, composed by John Adams

Big Sur

Jack Kerouac

$16.00 $14.72

If you listen close, you can hear the crashing of waves against the stark, dramatic seaside cliffs of Big Sur. The epic build at the end of this piece and subsequent release with the last ringing harmonic of the violin is truly truly worthy of the epicness of Big Sur in all its glory. "The Dharma at Big Sur", Pt. 2: Sri Moonshine--for solo electric violin and chamber orchestra, composed by John Adams

I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff

Abbi Jacobson

$16.98 $15.62

Abbi Jacobson is one half of a very funny pair that stars in and produces one of my favorite comedy shows, Broad City. Here, Abbi writes a memoir of sorts—part road trip adventure and part self-reflection. I think this song encapsulates the energy and wit of the book. It's silly, sexy, and just fun. "Roller Girl"--Anna Karina

A People's History of the United States

Howard Zinn

$19.98

A major influential work in the re-telling of American history, Zinn’s book changes the narrative of American history by removing the veil of American nationalism. Different Trains also tells a brutally honest story of American history, specific to the time of WWII. It remains one of the most important pieces of the minimalist genre. It's most notable feature is the use of recorded speech as a source of melody. The melodic phrases are derived from the short thoughts and feelings of the "passengers" aboard the train. The piece was inspired by Reich’s own life as a Jewish man in America—taking trains between NY and LA during WWII to visit his parents. He then goes on to imagine *different* trains—trains that carried the Jews to concentration camps, how easily he could have been a passenger on that *different* train. The last movement, After the War, is more hopeful and less mechanical, less harsh, less train-like. More open and free. I chose this because it gives an emotional context to American history. "Different Trains": America, Before the War, During the War, After the War--written by Steve Reich, performed by Kronos Quartet

Jazz

Toni Morrison

$15.95 $14.67

The majority of this devastating novel takes place in 1920's Harlem during "The Jazz Age" of swing bands and dance halls. Duke Ellington was one of the most influential composers and band leaders of this time and reflects the improvisatory prose of Morrison's writing particular to this novel. "The Mooche"--Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra

Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity

José Esteban Muñoz

$25.00

A queer manifesto for the queer future. I chose a devastating, energetic, and optimistic song written by an out queer artist. I can't listen to this song and not feel just a little elated and hopeful. "Slip Away"--Perfume Genius

Tell the Machine Goodnight

Katie Williams

$16.00 $14.72

This is a brilliant science fiction novel that maybe went under the radar a few years ago when it was published. "Allow me to introduce you to your new favorite writer. Katie Williams plunges into our obsession with technology and its effect on our lives and dreams, and emerges with miraculous gifts for us—she unwraps the present and the future."--James Hannah "Fear the Future"--St. Vincent

Many moons ago, Amanda first worked as a bookseller at Buffalo Street Books Co-Op in Ithaca, NY. She’s thrilled to be back among the books, especially here in Easthampton where she’s lived for two years. Amanda holds a B.M. in Music Composition and a minor in English Lit. from Ithaca College. She enjoys all kinds of books but is especially partial to anything involving science fiction, speculative fiction, feminist/LGBTQ themes, and writers of color. She’s a nerd’s nerd and loves being a part of this amazing community of book lovers. Come talk to her about her strange taste in music (jazz fusion, anyone?), books, artsy films, and the Fermi Paradox.