Nikki Lusk is an editor here at Black Inc. In her spare time, she writes the blog The Book Tuner
(and also a column on music for Kill Your Darlings .) We chat to her about her blog.
How do you match music to books? Do you start with the book or with the music?
With all but one of my matches I’ve started with the book. I work this way because reading a book usually takes many more hours than listening to an album. The length of reading time involved also means I can test a variety of music while I’m reading, whereas it’s much harder to reverse the process and read snippets of numerous books while listening to one album. I try to pinpoint the dominant emotion, theme or image of a book – for example, the quirky outsider theme of Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You. I then search my memory, music collection and online libraries for complementary music. It’s a process of trial and error, and it can take weeks or months to find a match that I’m happy with.
What are some of your favourite matches?
My favourite match is the one that was put in my head by chance: I had Sufjan Stevens’s album Illinois playing on repeat during a flight, and I picked up Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin to read. As soon as I finished the first page accompanied by ‘John Wayne Gacy’ I knew I had a match on my hands, and it blossomed from there. Another match I was excited to find was the linking up of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins with the first three albums by Garbage. At first I’d intended to simply match the first book with the first album, but then I realised that the progression of the books matched that of the albums. It felt very satisfying to match a trilogy!
What was the hardest book or music match?
The hardest match came from a reader’s request to match the latest album from Future Islands, On the Water. I’d heard only one of the songs prior to the request, and the more I listened to the album the more the singer’s voice grated on me. It was difficult to look past that irritation and find the deeper chords being struck so that I could brainstorm a matching book. I got there in the end, but it was a struggle.
What inspired you to start the blog?
Three strands came together to form this blog: first, I wanted to write about books but I wanted to avoid conventional reviews, since I prefer to express how a book makes me feel than pronounce a qualitative judgment. Secondly, many of my friends who share my taste in books also love the same music, so I thought there might be a – completely non-scientific – connection that was worth exploring. Finally, I enjoy it when restaurateurs match food and wine, so I thought that might be fun to try something similar for books and tunes.
Where else can we find your writing?
The excellent folk at literary journal Kill Your Darlings have selected me to be one of their 2012 online columnists for their blog, Killings. You can head there from mid-February to read my views on music, visual arts and theatre.