Music & Literature: A Book List

To celebrate literary magazine MUSIC & LITERATURE making Houston its new home we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite literature on music and music-inspired literature (yes, we’re taking “music and literature” in the broadest, most literal terms here). On this list you’ll find captivating interviews, cultural histories, and fictional reminiscences from invented writers and musicians on the nature of music and its relation to great writing. Check out some of our favorite books that cross-pollinate two of our favorite types of art. Then, join us on March 23 as we welcome Music & Literature for an event and celebration.

 The evening’s program spotlights work from several of the artists featured in Music & Literature, including Argentinian poet Alejandra Pizarnik, Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, and Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, and others, performed and presented by harpist Stephanie Gustafson and musicians from the Shepherd School of Music as well as Rodrigo Hasbún, Roberto Tejada, Philip Boehm, and other local artists. The program will be emceed by M&L’s founding publisher (and new Houston resident) Taylor Davis-Van Atta.

Absolutely on Music: Conversations (Vintage International) By Haruki Murakami, Seiji Ozawa, Jay Rubin (Translated by) Cover Image
By Haruki Murakami, Seiji Ozawa, Jay Rubin (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780804173728
Availability: BACKORDERED
Published: Vintage - October 3rd, 2017

A collection of conversations about music from Haruki Murakami, the acclaimed best-selling author, and his friend Seiji Ozawa, the former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Together they listen to and discuss a wide range of subjects, from Brahms to film scores to the hobby of record collecting. The book culminates with a visit from Murakami to Ozawa’s retreat for young musicians, offering insights into the future of music and those that practice the craft. Offering deep reflections on the nature of writing as well as music, this highly entertaining book will keep you curious about the enigmatic allure of each art form.

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They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us By Hanif Abdurraqib, Eve L. Ewing (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Hanif Abdurraqib, Eve L. Ewing (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9781937512651
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Two Dollar Radio - November 7th, 2017

One of the absolute best essay collections of 2017. Abdurraqib’s essays explore contemporary music and its various fandoms, interrogating just what it means to be a fan of something or someone. Subjects range from Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance to underground hip hop to racism and police brutality. The writing is deft, the ruminations brilliant, the voice humble and engaged with the current cultural and political moment. THEY CAN’T KILL US UNTIL THEY KILL US is a book that can break your heart and at the same time give you strength to face today’s harsh realities. Reignite your belief in the power of music and take ownership of your favorite arts in these essays.

Mad Skills: MIDI and Music Technology in the Twentieth Century By Ryan Diduck Cover Image
ISBN: 9781910924761
Availability: Unlikely to Be Available
Published: Repeater - March 13th, 2018

This expertly-written book examines emerging MDI technologies (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) and their impact on the pop music of the 20th century. MAD SKILLS is a rigorous musical history that also offers expert commentary on the way that technology has shaped and continued to shape the way music is written and recorded in the current technological age. Diduck is able to explain complex music technologies in terms that a layperson can understand, and the book is loaded with historical accounts, periodicals, and graphics to further enhance your understanding. If you’re a student of the music industry and music’s relation to capitalist culture or an audiophile this book is a must-have.

Late Arcade By Nathaniel Mackey Cover Image
ISBN: 9780811226608
Availability: Unlikely to Be Available
Published: New Directions - February 28th, 2017

The newest novel in Mackey’s series FROM A BROKEN BOTTLE TRACES OF PERFUME STILL EMANATE. Set in the late ‘80s LA jazz scene, LATE ARCADE follows musician N. and his sextet, Molimo m’Atet, as they play shows around the region and release their first album. Presented as a series of letters written from N. to the Angel of Dust, we hear firsthand about the surreal experiences that take place, including cartoon speech bubbles emerging from the musicians’ instruments during concerts and a series of personality shifts experienced by N. Full of musical prose and examinations of music and critical theory, the book feels loose and smart, like a great avant-garde album.

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The Invented Part By Rodrigo Fresán, Will Vanderhyden (Translator) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781940953564
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Open Letter - May 16th, 2017

An aging writer frustrated with modern literature travels to the great Hadron Collider in an attempt to merge with the God particle and become capable of writing reality itself. A labyrinthine science fiction that effortlessly blends pop culture with the world of “refined” literature, THE INVENTED PART manages all of the Writer’s obsessions, including but not limited to Pink Floyd, the Kinks, and the way Thom Yorke dances onstage during Radiohead concerts. At once a massive sprawl and an easy read, this first of a trilogy experiments formally and stylistically to create a music and literature all its own. Plus, join Brazos on the evening of April 28 as we welcome Fresán to the store! 

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Compass By Mathias Énard, Charlotte Mandell (Translated by) Cover Image
By Mathias Énard, Charlotte Mandell (Translated by)
ISBN: 9780811226622
Availability: BACKORDERED
Published: New Directions - March 28th, 2017

COMPASS is a warm, learned, and invigorating novel that takes place across the course of one single night. Insomniac musicologist Franz Ritter spends all hours drifting between dream and memory, East and West, encountering all of the musicians, scholars, writers, and artists that populate these liminal spaces. A “powerful ode to Otherness,” COMPASS explores the artifices and artificial boundaries we create for ourselves and each other even as it blurs those lines. A beautiful book that makes great company on those nights where you just can’t sleep.

The Yacht Rock Book: The Oral History of the Soft, Smooth Sounds of the 70s and 80s By Greg Prato, Fred Armisen (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Greg Prato, Fred Armisen (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9781911036296
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Jawbone Press - March 6th, 2018

Already an instant classic. Yacht rock includes some of your favorite pop hits from the ‘70s and ‘80s, songs like “Footloose” and every Fleetwood Mac song sung by Christine McVie. This oral history of one of rock’s greatest genres includes interviews from artists like John Oates, Don Felder, and the captain of yacht rock himself, Kenny Loggins. Greg Prato teases out a thread of history, beginning with yacht rock’s glory days and leading all the way up to its current resurgence in popularity and singular importance. A necessary book.

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