Much like the pairing of food and drink (wine/beer/cocktails), I think there is a very delicate art in pairing the music you listen to while reading or writing. Sometimes, listening to music while reading or writing doesn't work and can be very hard. This is especially the case if it's something particularly difficult. But I often find I'm able to handle reading while I have some music in the background, but it has to be appropriate music. A mismatch can ruin both the literature and the music and make accomplishing anything next to impossible. But if you get the right pairing, it can mesh together and make the experience even better. On that note, I thought I'd list some of my favorite author and music pairings. Let me know what you think of them, or what you think of listening to music while reading.
Jack Kerouac & Bob Dylan- This one is pretty obvious, for me at least, because of the strong connection between Kerouac and Dylan. Between Dylan's Beat origins and interactions, his use of Kerouac-ian titles for his songs and his friendship with Allen Ginsberg, Dylan became the great disciple of the Beats who would keep the message going. From Dylan, people like Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski would arise to take up that Beat mantle. But Dylan definitely writes and creates songs in such a way that seems to fit with Kerouac's writing. Also, and more obviously, Charlie Parker's jazz works well as a soundtrack for Kerouac's work.
Ernest Hemingway & Franks Wild Years by Tom Waits- Though Tom Waits is definitely more of a Kerouac guy than a Hemingway one, I still find Franks Wild Years to be a good companion to Hemingway reading. That being said, you can trace a line or two from Waits back to Hemingway. Waits has an album called Nighthawks at the Diner, which draws it's name from Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, which is based on Hemingway's short story "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place." But there's something about the album that connects to Hemingway. It's more of a grizzled, former soldier's sound than the Beat, seedy bar hopping tone of Waits' other albums. Songs like "Cold, Cold Ground" and "Train Song" seem right out of a Hemingway novel.
John Steinbeck & We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions by Bruce Springsteen- Seeger (the folk-songwriting legend behind the songs on this album) and Steinbeck definitely shared something, a kind of Dust Bowl heritage and subject matter that came out of the Depression. But I was listening to this Springsteen album filled with covers of Seeger songs as I read The Grapes of Wrath and I found that they fit perfectly. It's definitely the sounds and types of songs you would associate with people like The Joads and other Okies, heading out to California's Central Valley in search of work.
Percy Shelley/William Blake & The Doors- I thought there was a great connection to these two most crazy poets of the Romantic period and one of our crazy, modern day Romantic poets. The Doors actually took their name from a Blake poem, from the line "the doors of perception" though by way of Aldous Huxley. These two Romantic poets are almost psychedelic before psychedelia even existed, so the match seems perfect.
Langtson Hughes & Stevie Wonder- This one I can't really get into or give a really concrete reason as to why it fits, but it just does. It mainly stems out of an incident my freshman year of college. I was working on a paper on Langston Hughes and I listened to a lot of Stevie Wonder at the time. Well, I did pretty good on the paper so the Hughes-Wonder connection stuck.
I also find myself listening to classical music for people like Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot and any philosophy/theory type stuff I have to read. I think Lawrence really lends himself to British artists, maybe the Beatles or the Stones? Proust and Chopin definitely go together for me as well.
Anyways, what are some of your pairings of literature and music? Do you agree or disagree with mine?