Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Modernist Mix Tape

One of the things I'm noticing on literary blogs and whatnot are mix tapes. I love mix tapes, and sometimes I'm sad that I was born in the late eighties, as tapes were about to go out of style in favor of CD's. (Not that those aren't a barrel of monkeys in a different way...) I always wished that I would get more mix tapes (or mix CD's) as gifts, because they're tons of fun, and you get good free music.
Yesterday, I came across this mix, which is of music inspired by modernist literature. It's a great set, and could totally stand on its own, without its book pedigree backing it up.
Few mixes can handle having Iron Maiden, unless they are a hard rock/metal mix. "Brave New World" blends in surprisingly well with the rest of the songs.
Also, I am totally enamored of Rufus Wainwright's "Grey Gardens" on this mix. There's something so clean and clear about him singing "Tadzio, Tadzio" and then the rest of his singing is slightly scratchy. Beautiful!
And Bloc Party's "Ion Square" is a wonderful tribute to e.e.cumming's poem "I carry your heart." I love the line about being in Bishopsgate looking for Blake's grave. When I wandered over to Bishopsgate, I was trying to get into St. Helens Bishopgate, because it is apparently the church Shakespeare attended, so I guess I'm just as much of a literary nerd as the narrator of "Ion Sqaure."
There are a lot of other moments on this that are perfect. The harmony on The Zombie's "A Rose for Emily" is lovely and subtle. I love Kate Bush's singing on "The Sensual World."
I'm surprised at the lack of a Bob Dylan song. I feel if anyone has written a modernist-literature-inspired song, it's probably him. Not that I can think of any off the top of my head. I hear that P!nk often tells journalists what she's reading. I wish she'd write music based off of what she reads, just because I think it would be surprising, since no one associates pop music with literature, rightly or wrongly.

Some people in the comments made some great suggestions of other songs. One of them included Kate Bush's "The Infinite Kiss" which is based on Henry James's amazing "Turn of the Screw." I really love the short story/novella. It's got all sorts of good stuff going for it, and is a great work to write about. The song is honestly not what I think of when I think of this story, but the story probably shouldn't have a soundtrack, since silence would be a much better way of capturing the story's sense of isolation and devastating, ambiguous ending.

Also, someone suggested Toni Michell's version of "The Second Coming", "Slouching Towards Bethlehem."
The only fly-in-the-ointment with this is that I've actually read very few of the books listed in this mix. It might be the 19th century literature fan in me, but the only ones I've spent time with is Brave New World, which I read at fifteen and loved immediately, and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," which I experienced at sixteen and also loved immediately. I had unending sympathy for the Savage and Mr. Prufrock, who are both romantically challenged.
Seriously, could people come up with more of these? They delight me to no end. My favorite one at this point is Frank Portman's mix to his own book, Andromeda Klein. His other book King Dork is one of the most accurate depictions of high school and rock-obsessed teenage boys I've ever read, and it's hilarious to boot.

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