July 17, 2015
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Karim Dimechkie's Lifted by the Great Nothing is an auspicious debut novel, a coming of age tale that seamlessly encompasses the immigrant experience and themes of identity and race.
Kirkus wrote of the book:
"A finely nuanced look at race, gender, and power in American society . . . A promising debut penned in vivid, suspenseful prose that gives a new spin to the classic tale of fathers and sons."
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
Below are the groups–– mostly instrumental–– that I played on repeat for the three years I was making Lifted by the Great Nothing.
I. FULL ALBUMS:
The group, Balmorhea, makes me see things. Every note they strike seems so intentional and bare and brave––without it ever feeling like "cerebral" music. It's the most rare combination of smarts and soul I've encountered. Soul winning out every time. Even while on my 100th revision, Balmorhea was able to infuse my book with the emotion necessary to edit onward. The problem with revising your book for two years is that you lose track of the emotional plot. It's challenging to keep feeling and re-feeling the same emotional-beats over and over. I was at risk of growing numb to the plight of my own characters. Balmorhea made me care again. They have six albums–– depending on how you want to count the EPs, reprints, and remixes–– and every single one of them has the capacity to steep my senses fully into the world of my fictions, time and again. Hands down the most inspiring music to write to that I own.
Shlohmo's Bad Vibes album is the cave music that transformed me into a resourceful spelunker. It granted me access to the sometimes-dark tunnels of my imagination, allowing me to create the shadier parts of my novel. Shlohmo satisfied all of Lifted by the Great Nothing's ghostly needs.
Toumani Diabaté & Ballake Sissoko's New Ancient Strings album is the music that angels play. Their instrument, the Kora, is so distinct that it seems improbable they could sustain such richness for an entire album. But the collection of songs is unmistakably an ever-expanding story.
Chilly Gonzales's Piano Solos albums I & II brings me nearer to earth with every listen. Though, I trust it won't ever land me fully onto hard ground, but keep me perpetually hovering a few inches above. This is happy music that is nowhere near naïve. There's a soft-fuzz that surrounds each pure and simple key that Chilly hits. And though I've memorized every note, the listening experience is always equal parts familiar and fresh.
REWORK is a compilation of twelve artists' reinterpretations of Philip Glass songs. It has tremendous emotional range: from the frenetic energy and tension of synths to chest-thundering drums to the beautiful solemnity of piano compositions. A particularly complete album.
Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians is basically one long, repetitive song that builds over the course of 14 tracks. It's fantastic for work-groove entrancement. This album galloped me through sections of my book like no other–– so spellbinding and gradual and upbeat and regular. A 59 minute pulsating mantra.
Tsegue-Maryam Gebou's Ethiopia Piano Solo is melancholic, pretty, and lightheartedly spectral–– like tangoing spirits. Her wandering solos helped me trust my subconscious, and the album's home/cathedral-recording quality made me feel like Tsegue and I were making live art in tandem. She enables me to float through my imagination with a detached mind. I use her music when I need help letting go.
(Fun fact: Tsegue-Maryam Gebou is a 91-year-old nun.)
Amiina's Kurr is the ultimate morning music, utilizing a lot of xylophone and saw sounds. This quartet of women do sing, but luckily it's in Icelandic. Very simple and bright music. It's rare to find a happy album that is this deep.
II. TWO SONGS:
Lucky Dragons' song, "Open Melody" makes me feel like I'm doing a naked tribal dance in the woods. I put this single song on loop for days at a time in my bedroom. It was maddening in the most creatively empowering way.
Radiohead's instrumental track, "Feral," is weird, agitated, and makes me mildly ill. This single glitchy, rushed, though sometimes droning, song was the ideal soundtrack to my scariest paragraphs. It is a perfect merger of disorientation and rhythmic anchoring. A pitch that's very hard to achieve in writing.
Karim Dimechkie and Lifted by the Great Nothing links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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