“The drums come in on the beat of one to lift my soul.” ~ Maya Angelou, Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul
Like other forms of art, music represents an expression that’s free, open-to-interpretation, and loved in its many variations. It also has an advantage among other forms of art – its intangible presence allows it to be weaved throughout the rest of the art world (and for that matter, the rest of the world in general). Like many others and many of my fellow staff members, I am an avid fan of all types of music. Without getting too sentimental about what music means to me, I can simply say that if I go a day without listening to music, you know something is wrong. I use it to think, chill out, calm down, get excited, read a book, get work done, to get cleaning done faster, go on road trips, ponder meaning in the world…you get the idea.
So I’m going to combine my love for music with my passion for books, and discuss a few books from the Wilson Collection that are either music-related or musically inspired. I’ve discussed this first book before if you recognize it, but because it’s such a unique part of the collection, it’s worth mentioning again…
Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul
“Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul” by Maya Angelou
by Maya Angelou
Of course anything by Maya Angelou is going to be well worth the read, but this one is significant because it is a first edition book created strictly for the LEC. And what about music, you say? Everything about the poem and book is rooted in music. Angelou links joy and pain and music all in one, not as her own but as humanities pain as well.
An original jazz composition was created by Wynton Marsalis just for the book, as well. The disc includes a 30-minute composition of Angelou reading the poem, with Marsalis on trumpet and a few more instruments in the background. This added feature helps bring the poem alive, along with the 6 colored etchings by Dean Mitchell.
It’s an amazing all-in-one package for the LEC subscribers and even more valuable because only 400 copies were printed, and the book was signed by the author, artist, and musician.
A Lie of the Mind
by Sam Shepard
Arion Press, 1993
One might say that the author of this play has “The Right Stuff” when it comes to writing. Hahaha, I realize I am probably the only one chuckling at this one so let me explain. Though he is a man of many talents, having won a Pulitzer Prize for a previous play in 1979, Sam Shepard is more commonly recognized as an actor. And more specifically, you can find him playing Chuck Yeager in the movie, The Right Stuff. If you haven’t seen that, then maybe you’ve seen him in Black Hawk Down, Swordfish, August: Osage County, The Notebook, Steel Magnolias…ladies. But if you are still clueless, clearly you don’t watch much tv. Just kidding, just IMDB him.
But anyway, he’s a talented playwright as well, with this play being named the best new play of the season by the New York Drama Critics Circle in 1986. The story is a heavy one following two families as they struggle to deal with a severe incident of spousal abuse. Now for the musical relation – along with the book, subscribers to the Press also received a CD recording by the Red Clay Ramblers from the first production of the play. Actually, the current tapping of my toe is due to that soundtrack, it’s quite catchy being an “Old Crow Medicine Show”-type sound.
“Requiem” by Anna Akhamatova
by Anna Akhamatova
The power of this poem can certainly be felt in the music that accompanies it. Requiem is a group of short poems written by Anna Akhamatova, a Russian poet whose work was officially prohibited during the Stalin era. The years were tough for Akhamatova and remained that way until the dictator’s death in 1953.
Eventually, the Writer’s Union paid tribute to “the great Soviet poet who for more than half a century devoted herself to the noble service of Russian poetic speech, of the homeland, and of Soviet society building a new world” (LEC newsletter).
Though love was primarily her focus, Requiem focuses on her experiences during the siege of Leningrad. The poems combined include her work between 1935 and 1943. This passionate piece of work focuses on love, shame, and hatred. Subscribers to the LEC received a treat when the CD including Sir John Tavener’s musical rendering of Requiem was included with their book. This recording is from the 1981 rendering played at London’s Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time that the LEC included a musical recording with its books.
Other musical tidbits:
Outside of the good music mentioned above, the Library has other means of providing good tunes. For example, the variety you can find if you use Freegal and Hoopla. Freegal is a great service because you can download the music for you to keep (only 7 songs a week, please). And Hoopla is also cool because you can listen to an entire album that was recently released, and then purchase later as I usually do. For example, some of the albums you see below are found on Hoopla…
“The Fool” by Ryn Weaver
If you like the Glass Animals, you will like this girl. Her song “Octahate” came across my radar when I was listening to a Glass Animals Itunes station. The album is solid and full of variety. Also look for “Pierre” and “Promises”.
“Froot” by Marina and the Diamonds
Also another similarity to Glass Animals and Ryn Weaver, Marina has several more albums out prior to this one which I plan to listen to when I get the chance. But to speak for this one, it has a fun, somewhat ‘poppy’ feel to it but infused with Florence-like tones.
“Drones” by Muse
Though I have not listened to this album fully as of yet, I love the band and all of their previous albums. A friend and co-worker recommended this one to me, explaining that it is possibly the best thing that he has ever heard. I don’t doubt him.
The Wilson Room is open during regular library hours. If you are interested in viewing any of the Wilson Collection books individually, you can make an appointment by calling either (615) 880-2356 or (615) 880-2363, or simply respond to this blog post.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for a special Off-the-Shelf post about school next month!