Music and Reading

Clave de sol

This week’s Booking Through Thursday prompt asked about music—”What, if any, kind of music do you listen to when you’re reading? (Given a choice, of course!).”

I missed writing about it on Thursday because I posted a review of The Paris Wife, and I didn’t want to post twice that day, but I’ve been thinking about it since then and decided I still want to write about it, even if I’m late to the party.

Music is really important to me—as important as books are. I love music, all kinds. I have been a musician, but it is true that I haven’t picked up an instrument in years. Picking up instruments usually wasn’t too hard for me, but I never became a master at any of them. The two I played most were flute and guitar, but I tried out French horn, clarinet, and violin.

This topic is kind of timely for me. I have always been a music fan, and I will not say I am always on the cutting edge. I have pretty much always “discovered” artists long after their bands have broken up, or at least long after they started making music. So I cannot claim to have any sort of pulse on the modern music industry. However, I did recently go through a dry spell, listening to the same stuff I had listened to forever, it seems. I hadn’t listened to anything new, and I had decided that it was my age—I’ll be 40 in September—and that after a certain point, pretty much everyone just stops seeking out new music. I never thought I would do it, but I did. I was even listening more to podcasts or books than music when I drove. Then I watched [amazon_link id=”B002RVZV9K” target=”_blank” ]It Might Get Loud[/amazon_link], mainly because I am huge fan of Led Zeppelin and U2. But the movie opens like this:

Which made me a fan of Jack White. I have been discovering his catalogue, which has prompted me to listen to other artists like him. Pandora Radio is great for discovering new artists. Through my Jack White Pandora station, I’ve discovered the Black Keys, Patrick Sweany, and many others. I rediscovered Leo Kottke; my guitar teacher used to play his song “Vaseline Machine Gun” and would teach it to you if you would sit with him and watch, but I had trouble learning music that way—I needed either tablature or sheet music.

My point in bringing all of this up is that I might have answered the prompt differently a few months ago, but I’m listening to music again after not doing it as much for quite a while, and I’m listening to it while I read (sometimes). The answer to what I listen to is that it depends. Sometimes I just let Pandora take care of it for me. Other times, I listen to whatever is in my iTunes. Lately, that mostly means Jack White, but I do get in moods for other things, such as St. Vincent or T. Rex or Led Zeppelin, or the Black Crowes.

Another impetus for all the new music in my life was Jennifer Donnelly’s book [amazon_link id=”0385737637″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link] (review). Andi, one of the protagonists, is a music omnivore. She loves everything. All the music references prompted me to check out some of Andi’s favorite music. And Donnelly was kind enough to share Andi’s playlist on her website.

When I study, which I haven’t had to do since I graduated from VA Tech (master’s in Instructional Technology last December), I listen to classical music, like Mozart. I actually downloaded this album (iTunes link) for the purpose of studying. It may have been psychosomatic, but it seemed to work.

I’m always listening to a lot of music as I write, which is really something I’ve always done, but the soundtrack has changed a bit. It’s a lot of fun to feel like I at least have an idea about modern music, which isn’t something I’ve felt for a while.

Some things never change, though. I still don’t care much for pop music (such as Lady Gaga, although she’s a shrewd marketer, and I do admire that about her). I think music was constantly going in my teenage years, and it’s fun to feel that I am in some way recapturing that. I missed it.

photo credit: wakalani

Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays—June 13, 2011

Musing MondaysThis week’s musing asks

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?

I devoured [amazon_link id=”1565125606″ target=”_blank” ]Water for Elephants[/amazon_link] by Sara Gruen (review) in the space of a day, but I can’t remember how late I stayed up reading to finish it. I do remember clearly staying up really late because I was hooked on [amazon_link id=”0385737637″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link] by Jennifer Donnelly (review). It’s not something I have done in a while; I have had a run of four-star and lower books. It’s usually the five-star books that keep me up at night. I will say that [amazon_link id=”1439191697″ target=”_blank” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_link] by Jael McHenry is running on five stars right now, as is [amazon_link id=”1401302025″ target=”_blank” ]The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School[/amazon_link] by Alexandra Robbins. I think some of the books that have kept me up most have been the [amazon_link id=”0545162076″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter[/amazon_link] series and the [amazon_link id=”0545265355″ target=”_blank” ]Hunger Games[/amazon_link] series. I have yet to read books to match those two series for making it impossible for me stop turning pages.

American Gods It Is

OMGIALMOSTDIEDThe other day I needed some help picking out what to read. I think it turns out I just needed a nudge. You voters selected Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I have read the first chapter, and yeah, I think I will like it, but it’s hard to tell at the moment. I totally love Neil Gaiman, so there is, at least, that.

I think maybe before I read The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer, I will re-read The Tempest. I might get more out of the former if I read the latter first. The last time I read The Tempest was college. That has been a while. No takers at all for Gaskell’s North and South, two votes for The Cookbook Collector, and one vote for Becoming Jane Eyre.

At some point, I need to make time for Jasper Fforde’s new Thursday Next book—One of Our Thursdays is Missing. I also decided I need to read Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution. Until I read Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution, I can’t say I was that interested in that time period in France, for some inexplicable reason that makes absolutely no sense to me now. Oh! And I just started participating in book giveaways on Goodreads, and I won the first book I was interested in! The Rebellion of Jane Clarke by Sally Gunning. I hope it will be good. I haven’t read a great deal of fiction set during the American Revolution.

P.S. This was my 1,000th post! Feels like a milestone.

photo credit: J.J. Verhoef

Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly

RevolutionAndi Alpers, one of the protagonists of Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution, is a guitar prodigy attending a tony private school in Brooklyn, but she’s haunted by the loss of her brother Truman, her mother’s subsequent breakdown, and her father’s absence. When she has decided not to write her senior thesis, which will prevent her from graduating, her father, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, takes her with him to Paris, where he is helping his historian friend G with a project—they are testing the DNA of a heart G discovered to determine if it belonged to the lost king Louis XVII, the Dauphin of France, who died in the last days of the French Revolution, imprisoned, mad, alone, and orphaned. Andi’s father hopes that access to primary sources and his strict guidance can help Andi make some progress on her thesis, which concerns the musical influence of eighteenth century composer Amadé Malherbeau on modern music. G gives her a guitar discovered in the catacombs, and Andi finds a diary hidden in a secret compartment. The diary belongs to Alexandrine Paradis, a performer hired by the French royal family to entertain the young Dauphin. As Andi reads the diary, she becomes entranced by Alex’s story. While in Paris, she also meets Virgil, a Tunisian musician, and forges a strong connection with him. One night when he takes her to the catacombs, the world of Alex’s diary suddenly becomes real when Andi discovers herself transported to the last days of the French Revolution.

I cannot describe how much I loved this book. I said in my last post that a gauge of how much I like a book is whether or not I can put it down. I didn’t want this book to end. I put it down only to prolong the pleasure of reading it. I could easily have finished it off in a couple of days if I hadn’t done so. The strongest gauge of how much I love a book is when I wish I had written it myself. I don’t know why I feel that way—I suspect I want the book to belong to me even more than it does if I’ve read it. Jennifer Donnelly is an excellent writer. She brings the life of a 21st Brooklyn teenager to life in ways I’ve seen few young adult authors do with as much honesty and realism. She also brings Revolutionary-era France to life in sharp-relief. The invented parts of her book fit so seamlessly with the historical aspects, that you will find yourself Googling references, unable to tell what is real and what is invented. Andi and Alex are likable, real protagonists, and I found myself falling in love with the characters. Donnelly managed also to kindle an interest in an era of history I have previously not been as interested in—the French Revolution. I know you’re thinking “How could I not have been interested it that?” I don’t know! I sure can’t figure it out after reading this book, but I know I want to read more now. This novel isn’t just one of the best historical fiction YA books I’ve read, or one of the best YA books I’ve read. It’s one of the best historical fiction books I’ve read of any stripe. Whether you think of yourself as interested in France, the French Revolution, or even music or not, you will enjoy this book. What’s not to love in a book that mentions both Jeff Buckley and “Ten Years Gone,” my favorite Led Zeppelin song, in nearly the same breath as Bach and Beethoven? My recommendation: READ IT!

Here’s the book trailer, if you’re interested in learning a bit more about the book:

Rating: ★★★★★ (I wish I could give it six stars. Out of five.)

I read this book for the Historical Fiction Challenge and for the YA Historical Fictional Challenge. I now have 13 books left for the Historical Fiction Challenge and 14 left for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge.