Zig Zag Claybourne’s recent novel, Afro-Puffs are the Antennae of the Universe, included a playlist of funk and rock songs mentioned in the text for your listening pleasure before, during, or after the read. I thought this was a great idea, so I have curated one for my novella. (Mine will never compete with his for funk. That’s my cross to bear.) There’s some opera, some Broadway, some vaguely folkish alterna-rock.
I’ve made a playlist on Spotify for these tracks, and there is a link below to a bonus track that the service didn’t provide. If you’re clever, these may lead you to Easter eggs I’ve hidden in the text. If you have a song that you think fits, hop over to the contact page or twitter and let me know!
“Tam Lin” by Fairport Convention.
Tam Lin is a Scottish ballad (Child Ballad 39, if you wanna get technical). I like this version and the one by Steeleye Span, though if I’m being honest, I find the Thumpermonkey cover the most haunting. Is it weird to open a playlist for a vampire story set in not-quite-Germany with a Scottish ballad? No.
“Kogda bi zhizhn domashnim krugom” from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
This was the opera that led me to the novel that gave me the sonnets to write my story with. This is the part where Onegin, having received Tatiana’s heartfelt letter declaring her love, completely shuts her down. You can hear the syllable pattern from the sonnets, at least in the first four lines of the aria.
“Ne plach ditya” from Rubenstein’s Demon.
There aren’t a lot of operas about vampires. Okay, I count one, and it’s coming up. But this is about the (remarkably emo) Devil falling in love with a human girl, so that seems close enough. The song is gorgeous, though the story doesn’t end well. Because opera.
“Ha, noch ein ganzen tag,” and “Wohl du zwingst mich zum verbrechen” from Marchner’s Der Vampyr. Here’s that vampire opera I told you about, so if you want to hear a vampire baritone sing in German, these tracks are for you. Full disclosure: I am actually familiar with these arias in English from a version of this opera done by the BBC in the ’90s. It is a trip and I recommend searching for it on YouTube.
“Einladung zum Ball” from Steinman’s Tanz der Vampire.
Vampire operas are rare, and vampire musicals ain’t much more common; on Broadway, they tend to ignominious ends (google of Dance of the Vampires or Lestat: The Musical.) But this was a hit in Germany, and this was the first track I ever heard from it. Here, the Graf von Krolock invites the young heroine Sarah to the Midnight Ball. This Graf also has a huge library, but that’s a later track. If you don’t understand German, I’ve included the song in Hungarian (“Meghívás a bálba”). I also put in “Totale Finsternis,” (Total Eclipse of the Heart) in case you need a hit of something familiar.
“Letters,” from Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.
I fell so in love with this musical, it isn’t funny. My characters write a lot of letters, of course, but the money for me on this track is Anatole singing “Natalie Natalie Natalie I must love you or die!”
“Tomsky’s Ballad” from Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame
Back to opera! Tomsky describes the history of the title character (a card-playing countess nicknamed “Queen of Spades”) and how she used magic to win at faro. What I love about this song is how, even without knowing Russian, you can hear the character tell a story from the rhythm of the music and words. Tomsky is a lot of fun. He’s basically the Nicely-Nicely Johnson of Pique Dame: a third banana role that gets the entertaining musical numbers.
“Stride la Vampa” from Verdi’s Il Trovatore
I listened to a lot of Verdi while I was working on my book. Here’s another story song, this time from a dramatic mezzo-soprano. I listened to and watched this scene over and over when I was writing one character’s Emotionally Scarring Backstory (as Phineas and Ferb would call it). This character, Azucena, is the one who wins Il Trovatore, but that victory is pretty Phyrric. Say it with me: “because opera.”
“The Great Comet of 1812” from Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812
A beautiful finale about hope and life and heavenly objects.
“Let Me Die” from Onegin: the Musical
This is a musical version of Onegin, in English, written by Veda Hille and Amiel Gladstone. This is my favorite track on the album for the way it captures a young, bookish girl’s first feelings of love. I wish I could share the whole track, but Spotify doesn’t seem to have it.