February 26, 2010
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Jon Fink's novel A Storm in the Blood recreates the Houndsditch murders, where three policemen were killed by Latvian revolutionaries in 1910 London, and the aftereffects of the crime. Fink immerses the reader in the world of London's immigrant revolutionaries of the period in this impressive book.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
"While on the surface, the novel relates events of the present day to the terrorism of the past, Fink's story goes deeper, creating a compelling and psychologically driven tale of people who have lost their way in the world."
Beloved (soundtrack), by Rachel Portman
Alongside the klezmer music and English music hall I cycled through my iTunes over the six years I was at work on this novel, the gorgeous melodies and profound moods in Rachael Portman's film music had the power to send me straight to the heart of almost any scene-in-progress. Faux-African or genuine African, a substance of undeniable humanity swells the air and almost bursts the heart. The title track alone put a hook into me and if my focus wandered, dragged me back to the meat of, for instance, Rivka's torment at the hands of the police, Peter's confusion and anguish over realizing he'd reached the end of his life as a revolutionary, and the actual, violent deaths that found Fritz, Yoska and Karl.
"The Christian Race," by The Boston Camerata from Trav'ling Home: American Spirituals 1770-1870
A cultural leap away from London's Jewish East End in 1910, you would think. Its virtue is that it is also a leap away from the England I know, where this writing was done. Besides the beauty of this album, and in particular this track, playing it while I needed to imagine a time and place remote from my own created the illusion of a past world palpably near. For you musophiles out there, here's something of interest: Hans Zimmer cribbed the melody (and the arrangement, it might be argued) of "The Christian Race" and used it as a motif in his soundtrack for Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line. Zimmer did credit the tune as a "traditional", that's how I tracked it down.
Voices of Light (soundtrack) by Richard Einhorn
Another soundtrack, with the same humanity as Beloved and the same power to transport me out of England in the 20th Century. Einhorn composed this music in 1995 to accompany the restored print of Dreyer's 1928 silent masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc. It blends, as I tried to do in Storm, the real texture of the past with contemporary style. Dreyer is the most advanced (modern in his technique) of the silent film directors; Einhorn's music matches his subtleties beat for beat. One of the challenges in writing an historical drama is sustaining the illusion of the period. Arthur Miller found a kind of English for The Crucible that suspends present time and sends us back to the 17th Century for the two hours we're watching the play. Dreyer and Einhorn do likewise, and listening to Voices of Light helped to keep me "breaking character" while I was writing. My hope is that as a consequence, for the time s/he is reading about Rivka and Petert, any reader of A Storm in the Blood will remain convinced of its historical reality.
Jon Fink and A Storm in the Blood links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (highlights of the week's comics & graphic novel releases)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (highlights of the week's book releases)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from this week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists