October 24, 2013
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Kelcey Parker's novella Liliane's Balcony is innovatively told and is as impressive as its setting, Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural masterpiece Fallingwater.
Bookslut wrote of the book:
"Parker crams a lot into this novella, both stylistically and in terms of story. But the flash format seems to give each element its own space, creating a cellular, organic feeling that is once again, an echo of Parker's architectural muse. Not every vignette within the novella is successful, but each combines into an interesting form that also fulfills the function of every good story -- making the reader believe in and care about the characters."
Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes.
Frank Lloyd Wright said that he designed Fallingwater—where Liliane's Balcony is set—"to the music of the stream." When I first visited Fallingwater in 2009, I immediately felt what must be its music. To walk through the house on even something as dull as a group tour felt like walking through a conch shell. Into that water music, through corridors of whorls and spires. I emerged breathless. And so I began to imagine the four characters that share a tour of Fallingwater in Liliane's Balcony. They arrive heavy with their own problems, move through the house together, and, suspended on the balcony above the waterfall, find themselves changed.
Liliane came later. After my tour, I returned home and read everything I could about Fallingwater and the Kaufmanns, who commissioned the house. Liliane Kaufmann kept appearing and disappearing in the readings, a tragic but peripheral figure in the story of the Famous Architect and the Merchant Prince (as her husband Edgar has been called). I wanted to give her a story.
When I write I often feel like I am ‘composing' more in the musical sense of the word than the written sense. I have to hear the language (preferably in a minor key) and feel the story pulse inside me. In Liliane's Balcony, the flash sections of the five voices weave together, I hope, like individual movements in an extended musical composition.
"Anyone's Ghost" by The National
Liliane's Balcony—the book and the place— is full of ghost stories. Liliane Kaufmann's ghost is said to haunt Fallingwater. The Daughter character in the book encounters both the ghost of Liliane and the ghost of her first love, whom she has not yet met in real life. And aren't we all ghosts in training? This song is about literal and metaphorical ghosts, literal and metaphorical heartbreak.
Plus, as a Cincinnati native, I'm a fan of musicians that are from Cincinnati. And my sister might un-sister me if I didn't mention that she, as she puts it, "dated" the bass player in eighth grade.
"Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac
My character Amanda can't get this song out of her head. Nor can she quite get the lyrics right: "You can call it under a lonely day"? "You can call it thunder or only day"? I'm guessing she's not the only one.
And then the lines become a chant of sorts, a prophecy, and a declaration to the motherfucker (her word, not mine!) who stood her up on the weekend trip to Fallingwater.
Gesang der Geister über den Wassern, by Franz Schubert
Frank Lloyd Wright drew on the idea of the Romantic sublime when he perched Fallingwater over a waterfall on a cliff's edge. Liliane Kaufmann was a fan of Goethe and even wrote some poetry herself. When I found Goethe's poem, "The Song of the Spirit over the Waters," I knew it would become a motif in the book. The poem was inspired by a thousand-foot waterfall in Switzerland. Schubert set the poem to music in the 1820s, and, in my book, a young Liliane finds the original German version on her father's bookshelves and translates it into English.
"Lonely Girls" by Lucinda Williams
This may be the only subject I ever write about.
"New Resolution" by Heartless Bastards
This song is for my character Janie who, though she doesn't know it when she arrives at Fallingwater, is on the cusp of a dramatic life change. And a dramatic life change requires a dramatic bass line. The opening thrums of the bass make anyone feel like they can do anything. Then the drums kick in and holy crap you're doing it, whatever it is. And soon enough you're singing along louder than you ever sing along: "'Cause sadness makes me drown / and I really want to live!"
Heartless Bastards is another used-to-be-from-Cincinnati band. The singer Erika Wennerstrom served me and my grad school friends a lot of beer at Arlin's Bar before she moved to Austin.
"Pablo Picasso" by The Modern Lovers
"Well some people try to pick up girls / And get called assholes / This never happened to Pablo Picasso / He would walk down the street / And women could not resist his stare / So Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole."
Why wasn't Picasso called an asshole? Because he was Pablo Picasso. Edgar Kaufmann had a similar effect on women. In Leon Harris's book The Merchant Princes, one of Edgar's young lovers is quoted as saying, "when he took my hand and looked in my eyes, I thought I would faint. That look made you feel that you were the only woman in the world."
One of the things that drew me to the story of Liliane Kaufmann was the sense of heartache she must have felt as her husband had one affair after another. Pablo Picasso, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Edgar Kaufmann were charming and successful men who were allowed to behave in ways that, say, their wives, were not able to. Maybe someone should have called them assholes.
"To Love Somebody" by Nina Simone
Or any other song of love and longing by Nina Simone. For Liliane especially.
This video slays me.
At the end Simone stands up from the piano and, after being completely lost in the song, looks shocked to see an audience—and not the person she's been singing to—before her.
"Count Me In On This One" by Richard Buckner
This song is for playing on repeat on road trips to Fallingwater and to readings. For my character Josiah Quimby who's road-tripping through Pennsylvania on his Harley Davidson. And for my roadie.
Kelcey Parker and Liliane's Balcony links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
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Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
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Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
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Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists