March 22, 2012
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Jessica Maria Tuccelli's debut novel Glow spans five generations and 105 years, and captures the beauty, magic, and hardscrabble life of Appalachia through its mothers and daughters.
Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:
"In Tuccelli’s sweeping debut, mothers and daughters are fiercely tethered over six generations and beyond death . . . [The] elaborately woven plot serves the story well, peppering the novel with moments of lingering beauty and shocking violence."
In Glow, five generations of one family are given voice as they contend with deep-rooted legacies of ethnicity, family secrets, and the haunted soil they seek to possess. The story takes place in the mountains and forests of southern Appalachia, and so a good portion (though not all) of the music I listened to had a Southern influence.
Music is a powerful provocateur. It can evoke a scene in my imagination, unlock an emotion from my chest, or spark a memory from my mind. Sometimes this process works in reverse, and one my characters or scenes draws a song to it. Below is an excerpt from my rather eclectic playlist of over seventy-five songs for Glow.
In the first draft of Glow, I wrote a ballad for my character George Hailey, an orphan scamp, of unrequited love. Recently, I asked musician Rachel Loshak if she would compose and record the song. The result of our collaboration, I think, is a haunting ballad that stays with me long after the last note has faded. (For the curious, the link can be found on my website on the "Books" page.)
"Like a Songbird That Has Fallen," by the Reeltime Travelers
Strings and guitar. Appalachian twang. Hopeful and poignant. Death and rebirth. Moderate rhythm; quintessentially Southern. Evokes magic, faith in nature, and God. Martha Scanlan's voice has a high, heartbreaking quality, fragile and elegant as fine blown glass, and a soulful connection to the lyrics. I imagine this as the internal soundtrack for my character Mia as she returns home, a place that has caused her lasting pain but now offers her solace and protection. Simultaneously, it is the song for her daughter, Ella, as she looks down into the valley at the end of the novel.
As a songbird that is fallen, only to regain the sky, from this frozen shadow valley they must be revived.
"You Will Be My Ain True Love" by Alison Krauss
Bluegrass. A ballad of longing, loss, and love. This song plays when the characters Alger and Willie Mae reunite. The haunted, dreamlike quality of the music, especially the eerie drone of the hurdy-gurdy gives me shivers, as does Alison Krauss's warble of vulnerability. Sheer poetry.
And as you walk through death's dark veil,
The cannon's thunder can't prevail,
And those who hunt thee down will fail,
And you will be my ain true love,
And you will be my ain true love.
"Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair," by Nina Simone
Traditional Appalachian folk song transformed in 1959 by Nina Simone into lush blues. Opens with a turbulent cascade of piano notes that ends on a reverberating chord, followed by Simone's mellifluous vocals. Loneliness. Passion. Calls to mind Shakespeare's Sonnet 130. This song is for Willie Mae Cotton.
"Hallelujah," by Leonard Cohen
I absolutely adore Cohen's original recording: defiant, celebratory, triumphant. Cohen's voice—gravelly, powerful, plodding—builds in urgency, and then the chorus explodes with "Hallelujah!" Oh, the dramatically different levels! This is a song for young recluse Riddle Young.
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.
"Wade in the Water," "Go Down Moses," "Ain't I a Women," "Follow the Drinking Gourd," from the album Steal Away: Songs of the Underground Railroad, by Kim & Reggie Harris
Harmonizing vocals and acoustic guitar that gets my head nodding and my body swaying. Wife- and-husband duo. Kim sometimes sings the lower register and Reggie the higher one—an unexpected, creative, powerful, sonorous sound. Transports me to Willie Mae Cotton's time.
"When the Moon and the Sun," by Rachel Loshak
Reverberating bass played by the talented Rachel Loshak, who possesses the voice of a golden clarion. Incites the plaintive, pensive, brooding muse within me. This is a song for the misunderstood Emmaline Young.
"God Spoke His Name," by Claire Lynch
Bluegrass meets gospel meets string band. The vocals—a rousing, sensual harmony of voices— burst into plucky banjo bliss. Captures all of Glow for me.
"The Girl I Found," by Julie Gold
Upbeat and celebratory, I like to think this is my personal theme song, my rallying cry each time I sit down to write. Makes me want to run around my apartment, pumping my arms in the air, shouting "Hurrah!" Which I sometimes do.
Jessica Maria Tuccelli and Glow links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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