January-February Challenge: Musicologize a Book

January 8, 2014 7:24 AM

As suggested by Doleful Creature, this two-month challenge is to pick a popular book and a scene or character from that book and write a song about it.

I guess on reflection, the book doesn't have to be popular, but if it's somewhere closer to well-known than obscure, it will probably increase your audience!

As this challenge is potentially a literary one as well as musical, I'll invite our bookworm and poet mefites to come and join in if they wish, via MetaTalk.

Anyone who'd like to suggest a collaboration, whether they'd be taking the instrumental or lyrical duties, please post below so that people can memail you if they're interested in working together.

Please post your contributions tagged "BookMusic" and "mefimusicchallenge"




posted by greenish (20 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Awesome, challenge page updated.
posted by cortex at 7:48 AM on January 8, 2014


Not sure if I'll be able to whip up anything new, but I've done a couple of these before...
posted by COBRA! at 8:22 AM on January 8, 2014


I'd love to write some lyrics. I've had nice experiences with this before, although I think both times Cortex adapted something I had written. And I'm amenable to Cortex doing so again, or anybody.

Also, I can write a ridiculously large amount of lyrics in a very short time. It's my gift and curse.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:26 AM on January 8, 2014


I'm in for some lyrics.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:18 AM on January 8, 2014


(Reposted from the MetaTalk with some slight alterations)

It would be really neat to try to write lyrics for this, although I have no experience and don't know if I'd be any good at it and am tone mute (like tone deaf only I can hear that I'm singing the wrong note, I just don't know how to fix it. Also I made it up).

I also don't know that I'd want to pick the book or moment myself -- if someone has a tune and a book idea or moment in mind, please feel free to MeMail me and we can try to work something out (if it's a book with which I am familiar, presumably), assuming that's actually how songwriting goes.

Thanks for suggesting this! It would be really exciting to collaborate on music, even if I lack the ability to create something by myself.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:09 AM on January 8, 2014


My initial thought is to write lyrics to a song about Bugs Meany. If anybody is interested in recording such a song, let me know. Otherwise, I will come up with something else.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:52 AM on January 8, 2014


I have lyrics for a song based on The Man Who Fell to Earth, if anyone's interested...?

Fair warning: written in '87 just after finishing the book, with tears streaming down my 16yr old face. Happy to share with no commitment required.
posted by batmonkey at 8:12 PM on January 8, 2014


An idea that popped into my head this morning, that I won't have time to pursue but thought someone else might: a song built around the "You never did // The Kenosha Kid" bit in Gravity's Rainbow.
posted by COBRA! at 8:00 AM on January 9, 2014


Okay, well - nobody asked for them, but here they are, anyway:

Tigers in the toolshed
(the ballad of Bugs Meany)

This is my father’s song
A hard land calls for a hard man
Survival means learning all the angles
Taking what you can get

Idaville, nineteen seventy-one
Top of my class
In the School of hard knocks (upside the head)
I ain’t no police chief’s son

Tigers in the toolshed
You think we’re dumb
But I’d rather be lucky than clever
And you know that you can’t hide forever
Behind your books, your bodyguard, and daddy’s gun
We may not all be geniuses
But we learned our lessons young
Socially defectives
And smart-ass boy detectives
Eventually, we all get what’s coming

Tigers in the toolshed
Tigers in the toolshed (run, boy, run!)
Tigers in the toolshed
We are our father’s sons

Tigers in the toolshed
Tigers in the toolshed (run, boy, run!)
Tigers in the toolshed
We are our father’s sons

This is my father’s fist
Now clenching from my own damned wrist
You have no reason to trust my word
So have a look, I insist

Don’t ask me for reasons or alibis
When your fear is my only prize
If there’s one thing I hate worse than losing
It’s the pity in your eyes

Tigers in the toolshed
You think we’re dumb
But I’d rather be lucky than clever
And you know that you can’t hide forever
Behind your books, your bodyguard, and daddy’s gun
We may not all be geniuses
But we learned our lessons young
Socially defectives
And smart-ass boy detectives
Eventually, we all get what’s coming

Tigers in the toolshed
Tigers in the toolshed (run, boy, run!)
Tigers in the toolshed
We are our father’s sons

Tigers in the toolshed
Tigers in the toolshed (run, boy, run!)
Tigers in the toolshed
We are our father’s sons
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:49 PM on January 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


If anyone would be interested in a love song (platonic or romantic) involving Nancy Drew and George, I think I could work up some lyrics.
posted by EvaDestruction at 4:25 PM on January 9, 2014


Florence, those words are lovely and that's a killer chorus. I may poach them unless someone else pairs up with you.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 8:04 AM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here's my first, some lyrics about A Mathematician's Apology:

When you're a man of maths
And GH Hardy was
You does the sorts of maths
That the
Mathematically
Minded
Does

And when you have a friend
Another mathlike man
And he's dying in hospital
And his name
is
Srinavasa
Ramanujan

Then you get in a cab, don't you
From London to Putney, won't you
Because sometimes life occasions
The sort of unbearable equations
That subtracts one from two

What do you say to a friend
When he's lying in his bed
And you always spoke of maths
What speak
Do you
Speak
Instead?

The cab it had a number
1 and 729
And as a final number
This struck GH Hard
That it wasn't
Precisely
Fine

And you get in a cab, don't you
From London to Putney, won't you
Because sometimes life occasions
The sort of unbearable equations
That subtracts one from two

When Hardy saw his friend
He told him of the cab
And his numerical distress
That 1729
was
Unfortunately
Drab

No Hardy! No hardy!
Cried out Ramanujan
If a number can be interesting
Than this number
I'm sure
It
Can

It is the smallest number
Expressible as the sum
of two cubes
in two different ways

And they sat there, friend with friend
GH Hardy and Ramanujan
And they considered then that number
As only
Mathematicians
Can

Because you get in a cab, don't you
From London to Putney, won't you
Because sometimes life occasions
The sort of extraordinary equations
That are best considered by two
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:03 AM on January 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Thanks, BlerpityBloop! Please, be my guest. I would be very happy for anyone and everyone who wants to to set my lyrics to music.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:51 AM on January 10, 2014


Here's my first, some lyrics about A Mathematician's Apology

Nicely done.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:00 AM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


John Irving

A writer's life is an interesting one
And New England is cold in the winter
I wrestle my bears and I tear out my hairs
And I dream about fucking my sister.

I've seached for my father for most of my life
My grandma was mum and I longed for a wife
My mother was sister and awfully young
And I mostly speak German whenever I come.

I'm flawed, you're flawed
We're all prone to lust
But thankfully words are my friend
I'm flawed, you're flawed
We'll all turn to dust
It mostly works out in the end.

Surrounded by women from such a young age
They used me and loved me and forged such a cage
That forever after I longed to be free
I write what I know and that's worked out for me

I struggle, I question, I seek and I think
A severed limb lingers inside of my eyes
My best friend is gone but remembered in song
And a whore will remind me that everyone lies.

I'm flawed, you're flawed
So raise your glass high
But never drink drive or you're screwed
I'm flawed, you're flawed
I'll write 'til I die
Epilogue: life was good and quite frequently rude.
posted by h00py at 7:34 AM on January 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm in! I'll do something from the Bolaño ouevre.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:15 PM on January 16, 2014


Whoa cool I totally forgot about that suggestion! Now I'm gonna have to emerge from my cocoon-like shelter of textbooks and random pencils and actually contribute something.
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:01 PM on January 16, 2014


Thanks, h00py.

John Irving
posted by dubold at 2:00 PM on January 24, 2014


If anyone is still reading this I have a nugget of an idea for a John Updike "rabbit" song that desperately needs lyrics.

All I can come up with are themes of being discontent with middle America married life, and I'd like to leave the sexy bits out of the song.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 1:23 PM on January 28, 2014




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