Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone for the overwhelmingly positive response to this little idea. We are really excited by just how many people seem to be up for this little experiment and are really excited to share the journey with such a vibrant community as we explore the relationship and intersections between music and books.
With this community spirit firmly in mind, we have decided to have a monthly vote for which pairing to explore in the coming weeks… In the following post we will give a brief overview of each Book & Album pairing, and the relationship between them.
Vote for the pairing you’re most excited by / interested in, and then we will publish the result this Friday (6th February).
Up first we have a pairing of The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor / Josh T Pearson, Last of the Country Gentlemen: These two works are linked by genre; Southern Gothic – thematically dealing with issues of social decay and dealing with issues of poverty, crime, alienation, and violence. With use of religious imagery, and often eccentric and deeply flawed characters. O’Connor draws heavily from her Roman Catholic background, and through her use of grotesque characters and situations looks at questions of morality and ethics. In her second, and final novel The Violent Bear it Away, O’Connor looks at the life of 14-year-old Francis Tarwater, who is trying to escape his destiny: the life of a prophet. Through this story she deals with themes of destruction and redemption, and the secular being dominated by religion and destiny.
In interviews around Josh T Pearson’s debut album Last of the Country Gentlemen, he talks about the albums’ themes of pain and heartbreak in the wake of a failed relationship, and how he treated the songwriting process as confession to absolve him from sin, and finding redemption through the performance of those songs. Similarly to O’Connor, religious heritage plays a strong role through the themes and language within: the Texas-born singer being the son of a Pentecostal Preacher, and pointing to how he drew influence from the iambic metre of the King James version of the Bible.
We are interested to see how these two works linked-by-genre, will intertwine, and push-and-pull as we read and listen side-by-side.
Up next we have High Fidelity by Nick Hornby / LCD Soundsystem, Self Titled: chronicles of coming-of-age in Generation X. In High Fidelity we see Nick Hornby’s somewhat iconic capturing of the angst, sarcasm, and self-deprecation of a 30-something man coming to turns with his failed relationships, lack of achievements, and advancing years. Within the mind of Rob Flemish, we find a neurotic music snob, with a particular affinity for list-making, and an appreciation for the finer points of mixtape creation.
The debut album from James Murphy as LCD Soundsystem similarly catches some of the angst of an ageing Generation X, even echoing Flemish’s self-deprecation, sarcasm, and deflecting humour in lyrical study of his loss of credibility and ‘cool’. We see this particularly in “Losing My Edge” described as “an eight-minute, laugh-out-loud funny dissection of cool over a dirty electronic beat”. Released 10 years ago, a 35-year-old James Murphy stepped out from behind the decks and DFA Records to form the seminal Electronic Dance-Punk band, with his music-geek knowledge and credentials for all to see, and lyrical themes, the parallels to High Fidelity’s Rob seem pretty interesting to us.
Lastly, we have Independent People by Halldór Laxness / Ólafur Arnalds, Eulogy for Evolution: Two works linked by Iceland and epic intent! Independent People is an epic novel looking at the struggle of Icelandic farmers living in poverty in the early 20th century, and their survival in an inhospitable landscape. Thematically, Laxness looks at the idea of independence and self-reliance, what it means and what it costs in order to be achieved. As well as it’s strong economic themes: an indictment on materialism and capitalism.
There is also a strong tie to the rich history of Icelandic Folklore and Sagas- Laxness writes characters with lives steeped in fables and traditions; imaginations inhabited by elves, and ghosts. With lead character Bjarter being cast as a poet, rich in Iceland’s great oral tradition.
With Eulogy for Evolution, Ólafur Arnalds sought to compose a continual suite for piano & string quartet (with occasional added instrumentation and electronic flourishes) that was conceived as a depiction of life from birth to death… an epic and successful goal. This poignant music is mostly delicate, and fragile, with a cinematic breadth – giving conviction of power to the suite’s stronger movements. Arnalds’ compositions sit firmly amongst those of his Icelandic peers, painting wide-open spaces and immersive soundscapes – Jóhann Jóhannson’s fragile compositions reflected throughout, and the climactic “30:55” conjuring Sigur Rós.
With this pairing we hope to explore the influence of location and place on artistic works, whilst feeling the epic aspirations of both will create a compelling experience.
Voting will close 1pm GMT Friday 6th February – we will post the result later that evening.