February 4, 2009
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published books.
I knew I would enjoy 08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail from the moment I heard it would be published. The collaborators have always impressed me. Dan Goldman's Shooting War was one of my favorite graphic novels of 2007, and I followed Michael Crowley's election coverage religiously last year. Still, I was a bit apprehensive, was it too soon to recap an election less than six months old?
08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail is a thoughtfully presented "graphic diary" of the events leading up to last November's U.S. presidential election. Crowley approaches the election with a journalist's eye for facts and often surprises with key quotes from the principals that even a political junkie like myself missed. Goldman's illustrations are vivid and always engaging. This is a nonfiction graphic novel that reads like quality fiction, with a grand narrative arc (and a hero who conquers all at the end).
08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail is a nonfiction graphic novel that tells the story of the 2008 presidential election, spanning from the Democrats gaining control of the legislature in 2006 through Obama's election. A collaboration between myself and Senior Editor of The New Republic Michael Crowley, 08 combines the visual languages of newspapers and magazines with the sequential art of comic book storytelling to create a new kind of journalism with words and pictures.
As my comics differ from prose in that there are writing/art/design/edit stages to the creative process, I tend to use different musical styles as inspiration-goosers depending on what stage of the creation I'm in. As a former DJ and music obsessive, I realize I've gone overboard and have broken up the playlist into stages:
Writing Music (quiet morning):
"Rhubarb" — Aphex Twin
From Selected Ambient Works Volume II, this could be looping in heaven for all I know; writing music must be instrumental as other peoples' words get mixed in with my own as they travel down my fingertips to the document. This track distills my focus to a laser by making the entire world around me opaque and soft.
"Isi" — Neu!
This track off of Neu! '75 has just enough energy and slow start with a nice build, good for once the coffee's down the hole and the holy fire begins to take hold of your creativity. It's impossible to narrow Neu! down to one track as they're all magical this way... they're an essential waking-up or late-night writing partner for me.
"The Dance #2" — Brian Eno & Laraaji
Eno's Ambient 3: Day of Radiance collaboration with zither player Laraaji begins with beautiful calm, but the tings and plings of the zither create a heavenly rhythm that outshines anything else going on around you, opening the door to the place where the ideas live. The tracks on this album are long enough for each one to be an individual journey, and usually when the track fades, so does that individual thought. It's interesting to see where each thought leaves you off.
"Batwings (A Limnal Hymn)" — Coil
From the 2000 classic Musick to Play in the Dark Vol. 2, this track crawls in with a whispered poem with simple moody electronic tones that hang and flutter around you, taking you to a future Dark Ages in an almost prayer-like crucible where you are alone with your inspiration. But it's when John Balance's voice rises from speaking to redubbed chorus-with-himself around the 7:30' mark that it really takes you there. In my mind, Coil deserves props few groups could ever approach.
Drawing Music (fire + loudness):
"Emeraldragonfly" — OOIOO
Forever relegated as "another Boredoms side project", OOIOO's Gold and Green was a gift from an old girlfriend and it's never completely moved out of my skull. This song stands up slowly like something just born, stomping and shuffling in echoing drum beats and squelchy guitars, and by the time it opens its mouth... the voice singing from the top of its lungs is almost sad and cicada-like, alive for a few minutes and furiously desperate to burn like the sun before the fadeout. This kind of energy in is essential to my drawing music; at this stage I need shapes and colors in my mind completely separate from what I am doing onscreen, two isolated states connected only by a wrist, an elbow.
The Indestructible Beat of Soweto Vol. 1 — Various
I forget how I came across this compilation of 70's South African music but it's better than just about anything for drawing and shaking your booty right there at the drafting table. Bright vocals in languages I don't speak, incredible rhythm and vocal harmonies; you can smell dust and animal piss and frustration but it's all grounded and hopeful in a way... and that channels hope and heart into your work.
Saint Dymphna — Gang Gang Dance
This album is a mishmash and a mess of everything the band members have ever listened to, swirled together into something teriifying and exotic and new. It never sits still and demands to be listened to on its own terms; it's seriously the best thing I've heard come out of this city in the 11 years I've lived here.
Trojan Nyabinghi Box Set — Various Artists
The theme of the 2008 election was hope, and this deeply-Yoruba-tinged culture music give me strength of heart and purpose to draw the campaign's beginnings, when things were same-as-ever and dark dark dark. A candle in the night, this incredible collection strips reggae down to its barest components and simplest philosophies to speak truth to clouded minds. Yes yes yes I'm nodding while I draw draw draw.
Design Music (pieces and machinery):
"Rsdio" — Autechre
Autechre's Tri Repetae ++ (really all early Autechre records) are magical for editing and design as they really give you that feeling of music-as-architecture, blocks of sound constantly moving around as idea-clockwork is the perfect background for rearranging pictures and type. The modern/blockiness of 08's page layouts and the general reading experience of the book are heavily-influenced by this kind of electronic music. See also:
Dan Goldman and 08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail links:
the illustrator's website
the illustrator's Wikipedia entry
the illustrator's MySpace page
the illustrator's sci-fi "Yes We Will" Obama in 2012 comic
Facebook group for the book
GoodReads page for the book
excerpt from the book
excerpt from the book at Comic Book Resources
excerpt from the book at The Daily Beast
excerpt from the book at MySpace Comic Books
also at Largehearted Boy:
Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Online "Best Books of 2008" Lists
Largehearted Boy Favorite Novels of 2008
Largehearted Boy Favorite Graphic Novels of 2008
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Why Obama (musicians and authors explain their support of the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign)
guest book reviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)