Fans and Books…

So I’m back.  Within a week.  It just goes to show a little encouragement can go a long way.

Thanks to all who responded positively to my recent effort, especially if you’re back and reading this one.  I am hoping a few of you will be able to help me out with some ideas for something…so please read on.

At the risk of overstretching creativity and commitment I decided some time ago that alongside the blog I would start a not un-related project.  Before I go into detail though, a quick word about something that sparked the idea, to set the scene.

Bands & Books (@Bands_and_Books) is an East London club night run by my friend James, which does pretty much what the name suggests – combining “live bands, live books, book-themed mixtapes, dancing, rocking and reading”.  It’s pretty unique as well, as far as nights in the city go, in lacking any pretension or unnecessary attitude (particularly for a somewhat rustic provincial soul).  For what is a relatively straightforward concept, it is hard to believe the formula is not more prevalent and harder still that it works so well.  Simplicity is the key, with an informal approach which lends itself to a relaxed atmosphere for acts and audience alike.  One gets the impression that all involved, in a world of sadly essential mp3s and Kindles, recognise the worth of art in the physical – the warmth of vinyl; a lovingly broken spine; carefully crafted sleevenotes; and the soft brush of dog-eared pages.  Art overall is the focus, notably the links, parallels and juxtaposition of differing forms.

Right then. Back to my project. Book-themed mixtapes?  Hmmm…

The idea appeals enormously.  As important as music is to me, I can neither play a note or sing in tune.  I am a 33 yr old arch critic cum fanboy cum band-evangelist cum pipedream DJ.  Mixtapes meet the needs of these (alter-) egos and many more, for many people of all ages.  The ‘themed’ mixtape further elevates the field, or concept even, beyond the humble collection carefully and lovingly collated for a friend.  For the (probably over-anal) fan, the theme introduces a sense of strategy, of logic, of challenge…while still ultimately required to impress a select audience, to demonstrate breadth of taste and obscurity or irony of record collection.

So. I would attempt a literary-themed mixtape for one of James’ nights.  Moreover, I want to go a step further and explore the concept of ‘soundtracking’ a book.  I’ve thought a lot about this and while excited by the prospect, still have no firm idea how I will actually go about it (or, actually, what it is).

I want to explore the more orthodox process of soundtracking and/or scoring a film. Where does one start?  What are the initial and ongoing points of reference for music?

As far as soundtracking a book goes…some other thoughts/questions:

– Scope and Scale.  A basic approach could be by chapter, or major segment, with songs linked to broad themes and events.  At the other extreme, how far could/should one link songs in more detail sequentially to the whole book?  Could the length of the soundtrack or score ally in time with the length of the reading experience?  Can the songs reflect the pace of the story?

– Soundtrack vs Score.  Further to the above, do I just attempt to ‘soundtrack’ with existing pieces of music?  Could that be interspersed with original compositions akin to a score?

– Music.  What genres/ages of music to consider?  Present day?  Contemporary to the setting of the book?  Contemporary to the author at the time of writing?  Combinations of the above?  How far should songs be simply linked lyrically or musically to events in the book?  To themes?  Emotions?  Characters?  How far is it OK to stay within my record collection – should I look actively outside it?

– How far would a mixtape be simply a reflection of the book?  How far can it be considered a piece of art in itself  – does one need to attempt sequencing/transition of songs/styles/genres through the tracklist as well as the story?

I welcome your thoughts on all of this, from simply whether it seems an interesting or worthwhile endeavour, whether there are any interesting precedents, through to specific ideas about some of the points and questions above.  Please also forward to others you think may be interested and/or have something to contribute.

More soon on the book in question…Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon…


6 responses to “Fans and Books…

  • Julie Cohen

    Interesting project. You know that I soundtrack my books as I write, though this is purely for my own benefit. I choose songs that fit the story somehow, though I’m not sure anyone else would know why they fit. Sometimes it’s a mood, sometimes it’s a lyric, sometimes it’s the artist. For one book I wrote where the heroine was called Eleanor, I downloaded all the songs I could find with ‘Eleanor’ in the title off of iTunes, mostly to procrastinate. I’d only heard one of them before (by the Turtles) but I ended up really liking them all, and they all fit in some way. So it’s serendipity as well as choice.

    Good luck!

  • mathew

    It’s funny – as I remember thinking abt film soundtracks and how some of them are amazing and some of them are useless and I was thinking about how you could film things and make them better (i always imagined a heist scene shot thru a CCTV and soundtracked by DJ Krush, for ex). Will ponder on this tho. nice one.

  • Ali B (@AliB68)

    I have made a books and reading playlist for a friend- we frequently send each other mix tapes, but now CDs or Spotify playlists. To my shame I haven’t read Gravity’s Rainbow for years. I wonder if @martin_eve can help?

  • marc nash

    oh man, so much to say in response to this.
    Firstly I’m sure you’re aware of Barry Adamson’s albums which are soundtracks to imaginary films in his head. This seems to me to a good guide as to the flow & variety of a soundtrack across the “flow” of one narrative (in this case film rather than book). It is quite diverse.

    Secondly, whenever I write a novel, I first compile what I suppose is a mixtape of music that are relevant in some way to the project and then I will ONLY play those songs on a loop while I write the 1st draft. They infuse the writing (rhythms and atmosphere particularly) and whenever I come to start the next day after a break, I put the music on and am taken straight back into the atmosphere where I left off the previous session by the music. It’s like what I imagine to be heart resuscitation, or mainlining if we’re keeping this subcultural!

    Are there going to be readings of the book in between the songs? You could do cut ups of music & author reading. I once did a piece backed by two drummers, one from Huggy Bear & one from Mambo Taxi, that was good fun!

    I think the possibilities are endless.

  • Laura Tovey (@LauraCraftyBird)

    Haruki Murakami writes a lot of music into his novels and is fanatical about music ( maybe he could be an interesting subject for a books and band mix-tape…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: