Explore Music and the Literature That Inspired It in the TBP Collections

By Becky

There are so many books that have inspired musicians. Alice in Wonderland alone inspired everyone from Jefferson Airplane to Tom Petty, Lady Gaga, the Beatles, and others. Check out ALICE IN WONDERLAND; and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS by Lewis Carroll (DB 50842; BR 12746) from the Talking Book Program collections.

Tolkien’s Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion have inspired hundreds of songs, such as Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On.” FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING: BEING THE FIRST PART OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J. R. R. Tolkien (DB 47486; BR 09745; LB 04282) and SILMARILLION by J. R. R. Tolkien (DB 60367; BR 11510).

And there are many songs that reference The Master and Margarita. Probably the best known is Rolling Stones: “Sympathy for the Devil.” THE MASTER AND MARGARITA by Mikhail Bulgakov (DB 37107; BR 19148).

Andrew Hozier-Byrne (who performs as Hozier) has a new album coming out in August, inspired by his experience during the pandemic. Several interviews mention that Hozier began to reference epic poetry during lockdown.  Some of Hozier’s new songs are based on Dante’s Inferno and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. We have both in our collection: METAMORPHOSES by Ovid (DB 114243; BR 07318); and INFERNO by Dante Alighieri (DB 76353, BR 19903).Hozier wrote another one of the new songs after hearing Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy talk about feminism; it’s called “Swan Upon Leda,” another call-back to myth. In our collection: ONE HUNDRED ESSENTIAL MODERN POEMS (contains “Leda and the Swan”) (DB 65015).

What are some other literary works that have inspired music? We’ve found quite a few.

Kate Bush has been introduced to a new generation of fans because of her song “Running Up the Hill” being used in a streaming show. She also wrote a song called “Wuthering Heights,” based upon the 19th century English novel. WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte (DB 25178; BR 22475; LB 04699).

Basing a song on Fyodor Dostoevsky seems especially impressive—even a novella. There’s a song called “From Under the Floorboards” by the band Magazine. It is based on Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground–the friend who told me about it says it gets bonus points for condensing the whole spirit of the novella into four minutes! NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (DB 37598).

Of course, I can’t talk about music based on literature without including U2, my favorite band. From their very first album, they were referencing books and poems in the lyrics—”Shadows and Tall Trees” comes from William Golding’s LORD OF THE FLIES (DB 48388, BR 09480, BR 22324), and in “The Ocean,” they refer to Oscar Wilde. BEST OF OSCAR WILDE: SELECTED PLAYS AND LITERARY CRITICISM by Oscar Wilde (DB 62711; BR 16500). Bono used the Bible as inspiration for many of his songs: for example, taking the 40thPsalm as lyrics for the song “40.” A good half of U2’s song lyrics have biblical allusions.

“Exit,” on their album The Joshua Tree, was inspired by Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song; it is probably their darkest song. THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG by Norman Mailer (DB 13985). Bono also wrote a song with Salman Rushdie. “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” was not just influenced by but directly taken from his novel; he sent a copy to Bono and asked him to set some of the words to music. GROUND BENEATH HER FEET by Salman Rushdie (DB 48279).And their latest two albums got their titles from William Blake’s poetry collections. SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE (BT 03983). For audio: SELECTED POEMS by William Blake (DB 20845).

I’m sure I’ve missed a ton of books that have inspired music, so if you’ve been yelling a title while reading this, put it in a comment below.

Podcasts on BARD and the NLS Music Section

Many of our patrons ask us if we have music in our collection. Although we don’t have albums by individual musicians or bands in our collection, all Texans eligible for our service also have access to the NLS Music collection.

The NLS music collection, authorized by Congress in 1962, includes braille and large-print musical scores, recorded instructional materials, and recorded materials about music and musicians. We even have some podcasts! All materials are circulated postage free, and some digital audio and ebraille materials are available for download over the Internet.

You can listen to the following podcasts either by downloading them via BARD or by contacting the NLS Music Section. For more information on the NLS Music Section: https://www.loc.gov/nls/braille-audio-reading-materials/music-materials/.

The Folkways collection hosted by Cathy Ennis DBM 04111-DBM 04134

The opening program in the series paints a broad canvas, presenting outstanding musical samples that reflect the strength and diversity of the Folkways collection. Included is a sampling of original and archival interviews with the many personalities featured throughout the series, including Pete Seeger, Mickey Hart, and more. This program also introduces the key themes explored over the 24 programs, such as the role of music in social activism.

Journey through braille music. Episodes 1-6 presented by Sandra Gayer DBM 04274

Six episodes of the podcast series “Journey through Braille Music” hosted by Sandra Gayer. Episode 1 : History and background of braille music – Episode 2 : Music for single line instruments – Episode 3 : Vocal music – Episode 4 : Keyboard music – Episode 5 : Advanced topics – Episode 6 : Series summary and available resources.

Sounds to grow on by Michael Asch DBM 04064-DBM 04088

Program host Michael Asch is the only child of Moses and Frances Asch and was a professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton until retirement. However, as he says in this first program, “The show is not about me. It is about my father, and more specifically about the record company my father founded and ran for 38 years.” This episode features music from Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Lead Belly, as well as a sampling of sounds of everyday life and music from around the world. Total of 25 programs.

Tapestry of the times presented by Aaron Henkin DBM 04014-DBM 04049

A sampler of music from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings: Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, Mary Lou Williams, Elizabeth Cotten, blues from Warner Williams and Robert Jr. Lockwood, gospel music old and new, and international folk songs from Colombia, Cuba, Iran, and Puerto Rico. Total of 36 episodes.

Welcome to Nightvale by Joseph Fink DB 88270

A collection of episodes from the first season of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast. Based on Night Vale, a fictional town in the American Southwest where every conspiracy theory is true, and the strange but friendly people who live there. Collected by the authors of Welcome to Night Vale (DB 83488) and of the podcast itself. Also includes behind-the-scenes commentary. 2016.