October 29, 2015
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
For the first time, the Book Notes feature highlights a work-in-progress, William Rook's young adult novel and website Equinox Society.
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
My writing life changes every now and then. One day I’m typing literary novels on a computer, the next I’m scrawling ghost stories into a notebook. It keeps things fresh and often disconcerting.
Having published two novels under the name of Dennis Mahoney (Bell Weather & Fellow Mortals), I’ve recently turned toward darker, otherworldlier subjects as William Rook. The reason for a pseudonym is obscure even to me, and perhaps more emotional than logical, but as with any form of masquerade, dormant instincts and energies have risen to the surface. I’m more inclined to try things that might not work, and more concerned with process and play than finished projects.
But projects exist. I’m working on two. The first is a YA novel about a girl, the spirit of a dead boy, and the secret society who killed him. The second is a website of dark microfiction: EquinoxSociety.com. The projects are not yet strictly intertwined, but they coexist closely in the world of William Rook.
Certain songs share a blood type with stories I’ve been writing. They also make a good Halloween playlist—sinister and strange for a time of failing daylight.
Slint, “Good Morning, Captain”
An evil shipwreck song. This has one of those rare, hypnotic grooves that doesn’t wear itself out after seven-plus minutes. Troubling words about a captain and a child—possibly a ghost—are subtly spoken until the climax, when they’re screamed. A foreboding but oddly welcoming mood pervades start to finish.
Chelsea Wolfe, “Color of Blood”
A deep electric buzz and passing static underlay Chelsea’s voice as she sings—I think—about her grief over a dead lover, and “the deathless” voices who call her, seductively, to her own restful end. The yearning here is menacing but lovely, and when the percussion arrives halfway through, it sounds like a furious march to overcome depression. By the end, it’s hard to know if hope or hopelessness is winning.
Sky Ferreira, “Night Time, My Time”
A neon-lit motel of a song. Sky’s voice is both disembodied and sensual—the voice of a naked lover in an undulating winding sheet. A halting, broken rhythm gradually unravels as she sings of falling through space forever, faster and faster. The title and some of the words come from Laura Palmer, shortly before her murder, in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, “Moya”
When I first heard the opening movement of Henryk Gorecki’s staggering Third Symphony, I felt as if the composer had discovered some eternal, cosmic melody, like a mournful version of “Ode to Joy”. A decade later, I had a similar reaction to Godspeed’s “Moya”, which begins with a quiet string melody and crescendos—adding bass, drums, xylophone, and electric guitars—to massive effect. Imagine my surprise when I learned, only this summer, that “Moya” is Godspeed’s reworking of Gorecki’s Third. The arrangements are so different, I never spotted the identical melody.
Disasterpeace, “Title” from It Follows
I understand why some people disliked It Follows, the 2014 horror movie about a predatory entity that’s passed along via sexual intercourse. The story is a slow burn with a seemingly open ending, but I love its terrible simplicity and walking-pace menace. The score adds hugely to the atmosphere of dread. If you have any fondness for synthy 1980s horror themes, this music is for you.
Clint Mansell, “The Last Man” from The Fountain
Another movie that disappointed many, The Fountain is a multilevel contemplation of death (and our need to fight or embrace it). The story is a hodgepodge that doesn’t quite meld, but when it works, it’s almost primal in emotional intensity. Clint Mansell’s score deepens and elevates the visuals and themes. “The Last Man”—a sad melody over pulsing strings—sounds like neither a fight nor an embrace, but rather an acceptance of the mystery of death.
Giles Corey, “No One Is Ever Going to Want Me”
According to his Bandcamp page, Giles Corey performs “acoustic music about history, suicide, and ghosts”. He shares a name with a man who was accused of witchcraft—and pressed to death under planks and rocks—during the Salem Witch Trials. If The Decemberists are folk musicians who dabble in darkness, Giles Corey is darkness that dabbles in folk music. Spooky, nightlike, and rustic, this song opens with gently plucked strings and eventually transmogrifies into a primitive, torch-and-hayfork barnburner.
The Shins, “Your Algebra”
When you think of The Shins, you probably don’t think of this. A short, disturbing nursery rhyme with wet footsteps and echoing guitar. The lyric reads like something the boogeyman wrote in crayon to a child:
You may notice certain things before you die
Mail them to me should they cause
Your algebra to fail
Cole and Macey lost their eyes
To the finer points
Roll them up in coffee cake and dine
Silver Mt. Zion, “Blown-out Joy from Heaven's Mercied Hole”
Going out on a lovelier note, this is a delicate, gorgeous variation on a simple theme. Guitar, piano, and violin drift and interweave. The song is hair-raising in a less fearsome way than some of the earlier selections, evoking a spectral otherworld—a room of shifting hues with no apparent light source, of shadow forms and figures that are eerily familiar.
William Rook and Equinox Society links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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