Reading music

I can no longer listen to Krulle Bol by This Is The Kit without Flann O’Brien’s masterful novel The Third Policeman flooding my synapses. This is equally true of Mumford & Sons’ debut album Sigh No More and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. In some kind of audio–literary Proustian rush, particular chord progressions and lyrics trigger these books to bleed from the music, evoking not only plots, but also the sensations I felt whilst absorbed in reading them.

Music does, of course, always have this associative power—Thee Silver Mt. Zion’s album Horses in the Sky has now become completely synonymous with the final two years of my English degree in London—but I particularly enjoy these most recent linkages because of their specificity. Somewhere inside my brain, two distinct artistic creations have welded themselves together in such a way that I can now no longer think of one without the other. It’s as if I now have a bespoke soundtrack to the author’s work, and a brand new book of lyrics to boot.

(I should probably point out that this is entirely as a result of my new-found, subterranean reading habit. I now read almost exclusively on the MTR, and nearly always ‘to music’, so providing an album has piqued my interest enough to merit multiple listens, there’s plenty of opportunity for these connections to establish themselves.)

I suspect though, that there still needs to be an underlying affinity between a book and an album for the coupling to take place. Kate Stables’ ethereal, flawless voice on Krulle Bol, for instance, lends itself perfectly to the otherworldly landscape of The Third Policeman, and the lightly-rasping vocals of Marcus Mumford, especially on ‘After the Storm’, seem to express, to me at least, the quiet determination of the father in The Road. But maybe this is just doing history backwards.

By way of experiment, I have now started listening to Burial’s Untrue whilst reading Oscar Wilde’s dandy-soaked novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. I suspect this may be a disjunct too far, but only time will tell. I’ve only read about 40 pages, so there may be a chapter on the death of rave yet. If the result is of any interest, I may report back.

Other possible unions include: 1984 and Rodrigo y Gabriela; Mr Sneeze and Godspeed You! Black Emperor; Delia’s How to Cook and Venetian Snares; The Little Prince and Throbbing Gristle …

Anyway, you get the picture …


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