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November 22, 2013

Book Notes - Brendan Connell "Miss Homicide Plays the Flute"

Miss Homicide Plays the Flute

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.

Brendan Connell's Miss Homicide Plays the Flute is one of the year's most inventive novels, and masterful in its language.

PopMatters wrote of the book:

"Playful, witty, disturbing and strange."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Brendan Connell's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Miss Homicide Plays the Flute:


I have written now a fair number of books, and music seems to some degree to drift through many of them, but Miss Homicide Plays the Flute, my newest, is the first that sticks pretty solidly on the music theme—well, music and murder and a few other things.

"Un rich copain” by Yan Zarba

The first scene in the book takes place in France, on a nudist beach. We can hear this song as we watch the lads playing beach volley before Sakhmet, with a serpent headdress and holding in her hand a fire-spitting cobra. The cover of the actual record shows Yan Zabra on a beach, but it almost looks like his photo was cut out and pasted against a beach background. Which is the spirit of things in Miss Homicide.


"Milano Calibro 9 (Intro)” by Osanna and Luis Enriquez Bacalov

Serena (the star of the story) is on the Piazza del Duomo in Milan and the scene there reminds her of this piece of music, which plays over the opening part of the film of the same title. Pigeons by the hundreds pecking up seed, pop-corn and what they can; the Duomo, a bright spectacle oozing saints, devils in the shape of strange, climbing worms, heroic looking women with great muscular thighs, old men poised valiantly on staggering heights. I can't say enough good things about both Osanna and Bacalov and the soundtrack they did for this film is absolutely a masterpiece. Fuzz guitar, strings and flute.

"Nice” by Kleenex

I'm a bit prejudice in favor of Swiss since my wife is Swiss. But the women in this group do remind me of Serena, only without make up and 100% grade A human hair, hand-tied front and sides, the strawberry blonde fingerwave or a henna red beehive spitcurl or cappuccino with blunt bangs.


"Madamina, il catalogo è questo” by Mozart (from Don Giovanni)

Serena, as part of an assassination plot, is compelled to attend Don Giovanni at La Scala. This is one of the pieces mentioned. Probably because it one I adore in so many ways. Leporello, servant to the eponymous libertine Don Giovanni, recites a list of women his master has slept with, "d'ogni forma, d'ogni età”. The words in Italian are really very humorous; and the melody hits levels of beauty that are only equaled by a handful of other pieces of music.


"To Sir, With Love” by Lulu

Part of the whole book is about growing up and learning. The line in this song, "how do you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume”—well, in a perverse sort of way that applies a lot to what Serena feels. Only maybe we should replace "perfume” with another word. Some awkward and unpleasant thing—a knot which the heroine is always trying to sort out.


"Old Picture Frame” by Ninjaman

Ninjaman is the lyrical equivalent of an assassin, so naturally there needs to be a song of his in this playlist. This particular song strongly represents Serena's attitude. The assassin is someone living outside society's rules, the same as the DJ (ideally). So when Ninja says "What are they going to do now that they can't control me?” he is speaking Serena's thoughts—waist-deep in fluorescent tonalities.


"Scarlatti Sound” by Raymond Guiot

This is a mood piece, featuring some pretty mean flute. This one also touches on a blending of old and new that is relevant. Sounds like some bygone spice, a picnic concert, and in the background are unshorn sheep, and the wind upsets the trees.


"Quit Trying” by Kodagain

I wrote the words to this for the Serbian band Kodagain. In Miss Homicide our protagonist naturally meets with some antagonism. Which is what this song is about. Beating arms in sulphurous smoke with long wide open sleeves, like bat wings nightmares gallop upraised scimitars to assassinate dreams.


"Baby” by El Tigre

This was a single that came out in 1975 and is full of that silly 70s brand of heat, desire and pink suicide boas. It's another old piece of Euro pop with English lyrics. Serena inspires these same emotions in many; so, yeah, there'll never be another girl who does so much and can kill with poisoned shampoo.


"Che debbo far” by Bartolomeo Tromboncino

A poem by Petrarch is put to music. And what a beautiful and sad piece it is. "Ogni dolcezza de mia vita è tolta.” Villages plundered, markets torn apart, drunkards kissed and streetwalkers bowed to. Roaming the desert with shouting and singing. Oh you round world, you give so many reasons to cry; and that which is good in you, can be so hard to find.


"Love Hurts” by Roy Orbison

Well, Roy Orbison didn't write the song, but it is his version that was in my mind when I finished the book. I actually wrote a totally different ending than is there. But I didn't like it as it wasn't sympathetic enough. Roy Orbison helped me finish it in a way that, for me, is correct—just a little bit upbeat, with a spot of light. That is why our heroine is thinking of this song at the very end—as it is a sort of melancholy thing, but also full of beauty and light.


Brendan Connell and Miss Homicide Plays the Flute links:

the author's blog
limited edition hardcover edition of the book
video trailer for the book

PopMatters review

Omnivoracious interview with the author
Weird Fiction Review interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

Online "Best of 2013" Book Lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists


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