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April 11, 2014

Book Notes - Daniel Levine "Hyde"


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.

Hyde is a dark and complex exploration of the life of Edward Hyde, the character from Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and an auspicious debut from author Daniel Levine.

BookPage wrote of the book:

"With compelling intensity, Levine makes a noteworthy literary debut."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In his own words, here is Daniel Levine's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel, Hyde:

Mostly I listen to music when I'm driving, as a soundtrack to the scenery and my ruminations. When I wanted to think about Hyde or was searching for inspiration, I'd generally listen to classical or instrumental music. Jekyll's sadistic father was a violinist, and the strains of his Stradivarius permeate the old stone Scottish manor in which young Henry (and Hyde) were raised. I was particularly attracted to mournful, haunting, risingly dramatic compositions. Some more rousing, modern songs also helped to balance the morbid mood in which I had to immerse myself.

Cello Sonata in E Minor Op. 85, Edward Elgar

This gorgeous sonata was composed for the cello in 1918, so Jekyll's father couldn't have played it on the violin in the 1850s. Nevertheless it captures the moody brio I imagined wafting through the Jekyll manor, uplifting and yet anguished. There is a particular crescendo that makes my hairs rise in chilled delight every time.

Kreutzer Sonata, Beethoven

This masterpiece begins with a rough crunching chord and then mellows into dulcet tones, picks up and dies down. I wrote a scene (which didn't make it into the final draft) where the adult Dr. Jekyll visits his father in the mental hospital; as Jekyll and the head doctor are approaching the father's room, they can hear the Kreutzer sonata wheedling down the hall. The piece is wonderfully schizophrenic, manic in places and then suddenly, eerily slow and still.

The Fountain soundtrack, Clint Mansell

A beautiful, lugubrious soundtrack to Aronofsky's lovely grief-stricken movie: my roommate put it on a CD for me which I'd listen to when driving and brainstorming. Toward the film's climax the music builds to an almost uncomfortably piercing pitch, the violins striving at the upper registers, the bass low and insistent: like lightening flashes across a gloomily rumbling sky.

Tron Legacy soundtrack, Daft Punk

I thought this Tron was a terrific sequel to the original, in large part because of Daft Punk's masterful score: richly ambient, sonorous, blending orchestral and electronic layers, grandiose and yet wistfully sad. It's epically inspiring and sorrowful, providing a perfect backdrop to my creative musings. The music is about light and movement, acceleration and flight, and it mirrors the headlong rush of plot momentum I wanted to generate in Hyde.

"Breezeblocks," Alt J

Once I saw the video for this song, I couldn't get enough of it. It's creepily ambiguous, mutedly ominous, yet you can kind of dance to it, as well.

"Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)," Arcade Fire

The entire album (The Suburbs) is phenomenal, but this song just hooked me. It's also rather dancy, but tragic at the same time, the rhythm undercut with a nostalgic despair. The album is about the constant encroachment of the surbubs, the human sprawl, the advance of the modern age—which ties obliquely into Hyde's themes as well.

"My Body is a Cage," Arcade Fire

"My body is a cage that keeps me/ from dancing with the one I love/ But my mind holds the key"

These lyrics encapsulate Jekyll's psychological dilemma quite perfectly—and more generally the essential human dilemma. We are all trapped in these cages, aware of our mortality, yearning to surpass our bodies' limitations.

"Turn the Page," Bob Seger

This is my "go-to" karaoke song. Karaoke is a wonderful release of ego and emotion—if you do it without too much irony or inhibition. Belting it out from the heart is the way, and this song has great heartfelt gusto. It's about the life of a traveling musician, but it applies to writing, as well. "Here I am, playing star again. There I go, turn the page."

"Let it Go," Dragonette

This is bubble gum pop, juicy and snappy; the song kept playing on my roommate's We Are Hunted feed. Eventually I started queuing it up on my own. It's lively and fun and infectiously catchy, a necessary antidote to the melancholy world of Hyde. As the title suggests, I truly did let myself go whenever it came on, dancing around my tiny kitchen like a fool, shaking off the sedentary tension of stringing words together.

"Skyfall," Adele

I'm not ashamed to admit that Skyfall is my favorite Bond movie, and I think Adele's title track is by far the best Bond theme song. I saw some uncanny similarities between this Bond film and Hyde, most especially in the old stone Scottish manor where Bond grew up, which he returns to in the end. The song is portentous and atmospheric with an invitation of apocalyptic ruin, and I often found myself humming it under my breath while reading over my work. "Let the sky fall, when it crumbles…"

Daniel Levine and Hyde links:

Columbus Dispatch review
Kirkus review
LitReactor review
Open Letters Monthly review
Publishers Weekly review
Washington Post review

Adult Books 4 Teens review
Brooklyn Rail interview with the author
Huffington Post essay by the author
The Qwillery interview with the author
USA Today 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

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)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists

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