As part of our music-themed month on the blog, we’ve been asking our authors to talk us through four songs that have in some way shaped their writing. Like his novels, David Flusfeder’s choices span from the 13th Century to the 21st.
Syd Barrett, ‘Milky Way’ (Parlophone)
‘The most poignant song I know: a studio rarity that only found a release eighteen years after being recorded, it’s trying to be charming late-60s acid-pop, using the then-modish metaphor of being lost in space to sing about love and identity. Desperately pretty in places but, in the faltering acoustic guitar, the missed notes and forgotten words, what becames almost unbearably clear is that the song’s true subject (‘why so empty?’) is that of a mind becoming lost to itself.
Townes Van Zandt, ‘You Are Not Needed Now’ (Capitol)
I still don’t know quite what this song is about (‘Alison laid an egg on me’? ‘Alison laid a hex on me’??). It seems to mix together the thoughts of a man drifting towards the end of his life (‘Lay down your head and fly’) with the feelings of a constrained child into a single mysterious and utterly sure narrative.
Rene Clemencic, ‘Flete flenda/Lament the Lamentable’ (Oehms Classics)
When I was writing John the Pupil and trying to get a sense of the medieval world, this is one of the pieces of music—cynical, dirtily holy—that helped me get there. A song from the actual Carmina Buarana texts (not the bombastic rewrite of Carl Orff).
Gillian Welch, ‘Look at Miss Ohio’ (Acony)
Feels so slight at first listening, but then it creeps under your skin, and the chorus of ‘I want to do right but not right now’ is unanswerable.’
Words by David Flusfeder.
John the Pupil is out now.
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