In our Writers and Music series, authors discuss the music that has either been included in their most recent novel/play/poems or the influence music has had on their work overall.
Holly Anderson has written lyrics and adapted her poems for the likes of indie rock pioneers Mission of Burma, Rhys Chatham, Jonathan Kane, Peg Simone and Lisa B. Burns. She thinks a song is the perfect container for a poem: mobile, repeatable, soft or loud, in a crowd or solo, and simple to share.
The formative music events that shaped some of The Night She Slept With A Bear are all over the map geographically, emotionally, time and genre-wise, too.
Here in no particular order:
Driving solo from upstate New York to Los Angeles with the original cast recording of The Gospel at Colonus cranked full-blast in western Nebraska as a towering blueblack storm piles up and rolls towards me from 50 miles away across the wildly waving plains.
Seeing Patti Smith on her first tour in support of Horses at The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis and then running home - hard - through falling snow in a rapture under a vaulted star-spitting sky.
Delibes’ Lakme – loud real loud – on my Walkman on a Turkish bus speeding across the Anatolian plain after bathing in the calcium springs at Pamukkale. The entire day like a citronella-scented acid trip.
Hearing Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians for the very first time and immediately laying down flat on the floor to keep from rising straight up out of my body in a grimy studio in the North End of Boston.
Copland’s Nonet for 3 violins, 3 violas and 3 cellos on a no-name cassette rewound again and again. Driving through the green clefts and curtains of trees, corn and cows in the Catskills while trying to hash out a poem that just wouldn’t come. And it never did.
Rhys Chatham’s 100 Guitar Orchestra playing An Angel Moves Too Fast To See outdoors on a cloudless night in late June at Teatro di Verdura in Palermo, Sicily while my soon-to-be two year old daughter sits absolutely motionless in my lap, transfixed for an hour watching her father, Jonathan Kane, play the drums.
Dancing non-stop at a 4-hour King Sunny Adé show until sweat filled up my little red heels and they slid right off.
The Melodic Version of The Second Dream of the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer by La Monte Young. The piece: 4 notes, played on 8 muted trumpets at Merkin Concert Hall and the baby - in utero, 7 months - is rolling, spinning and thumping against my rib cage.
Neil Young’s 1971 Journey Through the Past solo tour date in Minneapolis when I was a wee hippie, a stripling in the 10th grade. The same sets were bootlegged later that winter at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion show in LA, and I soon wore that double album out.
Chris Brokaw’s solo instrumental Red Cities. I was writing lyrics for Clint Conley’s fierce but short-lived band Consonant. Chris let his songs breathe and always held back the right amount. No pyro, no bombast, just beautiful guitar playing and real clear thinking. Some years later when he said he’d love to score my collection of flash fiction and mesostics I was very happy to say ‘yesyesyes’.
(Holly Anderson has been anthologized in Up is Up, But So Is Down: New York's Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992, The Unbearables & The Unbearables Big Book of Sex, and First Person Intense. Her limited edition books Lily Lou and Sheherezade are in library collections including MOMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Victoria & Albert Museum, Brooklyn Museum, The Downtown Collection at Fales Library, NYU, and the Harry Ransom Center at UT, Austin.)