Friday, August 29, 2014

... The Professor's Homework and how music associated with a vampire novel inspires me...

For August's Homework Assignment, you are tasked to show us how songs or music inspire your dress, mood, art, writing, etc. Make that correlation between the song and the product of your inspiration; or, tell us what kind of music you listen to before you go out for the evening, or before work or school, or while you are relaxing at home. Remember, your post doesn't need to be fashion related. Get inspired! Think outside the box! HAVE FUN!!!
I started this assignment by listing 33 songs* that move me in different ways. My assignment attack was to simply take my list and start explaining why I’m drawn to the music. I had even considered simply including music I listen to while in the garden. But the Professor instructed us to “get inspired” so I paused to think about the most inspiration I’ve received from music. It came to me and I smiled because I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. And while it’s pretty goth, it isn’t goth music.

In 2012, I received an email with the heading “Do Not Open Until Christmas”. I knew a surprise was coming because my fella had taken my iPad from me. I thought this was a pretty obvious gesture because as I’ve admitted before, I’ve only downloaded one song (maybe two) on my own. I buy CDs still. My fella had slowly taken all of my CDs, ripped them, and was making my life digital. I assumed he was simply going to gift me with a musical library I could finally take with me... but why an email???? Hmmm.

On Christmas morning, he hands me my iPad and instructs me to open the email via the device. The file that I downloaded was entitled “The Legend Suite”. That year for Christmas we weren’t giving monetary gifts. I had read some of his favorite novels which included Shogun and he had… dramatic pause… read Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Now you need a little back story. I teach a general studies course on vampires in literature and film. Matheson’s text is one that I use and love. My fella isn’t a “vampire guy”. He hadn’t seen any of the Halloween movies when I met him and the only vampire films he had watched were Blockbuster films. Reading Matheson’s book would have been a big enough deal to me but my fella takes our relationship seriously and boy does he love me. He KNEW that I never understood the musical references in I Am Legend which are heavily based on classical scores. Matheson loved music and he knew his stuff. In my head, everything probably sounded like a generic Beethoven one hears in a Lifetime movie (I’m not knocking Lifetime movies by the way). My fella knew that for me to truly understand the book, I needed to understand the music so while he read, he took notes. Then, he researched, purchased scores that he learned Matheson had enjoyed himself or ones that the character Robert had explicitly mentioned, and he made me a sound track. BUT I AM NOT DONE because as I said, my fella super-sizes my world. He then, in the most thoughtful way, explained his choices because as he explains in the PDF:

"The songs referenced in the story encompass nearly seven hours of music.  The Beethoven symphonies alone total 2½ hours.  This collection uses one movement each from the multi-part works.  The single popular song (“How Dry I Am”) is complemented by other period tunes which reflect loss, waiting, or irony.  Music from the text has been re-ordered and paired with supplemental pieces in the hopes of crafting a better flow of tone or mood.  The resulting “suite” is a little over three hours, and is designed to flow organically from start to finish (should you ever have three hours, and the stamina, to spare!)."
Then he lists the songs with his own explanation. The one song that I had always wanted to hear included this explanation:

Leie                      “The Year of the Plague”
                             Neville considers soundproofing his house while listening to a fictional tune.  As far as I can tell, this work does not exist.  The text describes “weird, atonal melodies,” and I used this as a guide in selecting some of the supplemental pieces. 

                            Waltz Suite, Mvt 3 (“Mephisto Waltz”) (Sergei Prokofiev)
         To me, it evokes a darkly humorous dance of dread and death.  Neville seems to like    occasional dissonance and discomfort in his music.
And the last one,

                        “We’ll Meet Again” (Benny Goodman/Peggy Lee)
A coda which I like to hope a bold filmmaker would use for the closing scene, as Neville rises to face the crowd and ascend the scaffold.

It’s a four page document but I’m only including a few selections because this was a present that I find deeply personal. Perhaps the most personal gift anyone has ever given me. I honestly don’t even know how he could top it.

Now when I’m re-reading the book (because I believe professors should read the books they’re teaching each and every semester), I listen to this Legend Suite. When I want to feel like my fella is around, I listen to this Legend Suite. When I want to remember how much I’m loved, I listen to this Legend Suite.

*The original list of songs:

“Nine While Nine”, Sisters of Mercy
“Emma” (cover), Sisters of Mercy
“The Game”, Echo & The Bunnymen
“Nocturnal Me”, Echo & The Bunnymen or rather Ocean Rain (album)
“In the Margins”, Echo & The Bunnymen
Anything off of Disintegration (album), The Cure
“Fight”, The Cure
“2 Late”, The Cure
“Lament”, The Cure
“Just Like Heaven”, The Cure
Anything from Deep (album), Peter Murphy
“The Days of Swine and Roses”, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult
“The Other Side”, Don Conoscenti
“Oregon Hill,” Cowboy Junkies
Live Through This (album), Hole
“Beautiful Love”, Julian Cope
“Birthday”, Cruxshadows
“Unhappy Birthday”, The Smiths
“Horror Head” Curve
“Sit down”, James
“Like a Child Again”, The Mission
“She Doesn’t Exist”, Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians
Superstition (album),  Siouxsie & The Banshees
“The Passenger”, Siouxsie & The Banshees
“Halloween”, Siouxsie & The Banshees
“Like the Weather”, 10,000 Maniacs
“Crazy”, The Afghan Whigs
“The Vampire Lanois”, Afghan Whigs
“Happier”, A Fine Frenzy
MCMXC A.D. (album), Enigma
Nightmare Revisited (album)
“Unsent”, Alanis Morissette


  1. I have not read "I am Legend" I am going to check it out now! Thanks :) Great list by the way

    1. I tell my students if they like Walking Dead, they need to tip their hats to George Romero who countless times has acknowledged that his ghouls which accidentally became our zombies of today derived from Richard Matheson's vampires in I Am Legend. (and then I step down off my soapbox for five second) :D I love the book. His descriptions of the vampires are some of the most eery I've read.

  2. Lovely post and what a lovely thing to be gifted :) I am also still a fan of the CD, I just like the tangible feel of having them, and knowing it's not going to disappear into the ether.

    Love the full list as well - another Bunnymen fan. The Game is also one of my favs, but probably just edged out by Ocean Rain & Bring on the Dancing Horses. I have one of those dodgy 1980's photos you were 'admiring' on my blog of me with a huge ginger curly frightwig - the only redeemable item in the picture is my Ian Mac t-shirt. And Just Like Heaven is my all time fav Cure song.

    1. Thank you :)

      I agree, I love the tangible nature of CDs. I don't understand virtual very much.

      I remember seeing The Cure play Just Like Heaven on some awards show when I was a teen. I swooned then and I still swoon now.

  3. Wow! What a great husband!

    I always love knowing what songs authors listen to while they write or envision as their book soundtrack!

    1. He will be. We get married in this Winter Solstice (his idea of making it through the darkest night).

  4. OH. MY. GAWD! This is he most awesome gift EVER. Awwww ... seriously, that man is a keeper. :) Thank you so much for sharing it with us!