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October 15, 2013

Book Notes - Wayne Macauley "The Cook"

The Cook

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Wayne Macauley's The Cook is a delicious satire of foodie culture, fast-paced, complex, and thoroughly well done.

The Sydney Morning Herald wrote of the book:

'This brilliant and richly layered book by Melbourne author Wayne Macauley is almost impossible to put down…For Macauley is writing about nothing less than the social, cultural and moral excesses of late capitalism: about the logical absurdities of conspicuous consumption, the decadence of "fine dining" and the contemporary obsession with cooking.'

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes.

In his own words, here is Wayne Macauley's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, The Cook:

Music has always had a big influence on me and my work. I listen to it a lot. I have collected a number of LPs, CDs and MP3s over the years but equally if not more important to me is Melbourne's alternative community radio station, 3RRR. I don't go a day without tuning in. All the tracks listed below I first discovered there.

Like many writers I find it difficult to listen to lyric-based music while writing. Sometimes I'll put on something classical, but this is the exception. So over the years I have sought out and found all sorts of other non-lyrical, atmospheric, ambient or mood music. Some falls into the Eno category, some you might call alternative-improvisational jazz, and some is what is known as post-rock.

This latter category was important while writing The Cook. I often thought of the book as a kind of long piece of semi-improvised music—quiet-loud-quiet—which would, hopefully, sweep the reader up into it. I wanted you to believe but not give you too much time to think. Many of the tracks listed below, all of which I listened to while writing the book, have this sense of pulsing, forward movement. They might be downcast, or uplifting, sometimes they are both at the same time, but they're always driving us forward. For me each gives the sense of life as a restless, sad, searching, sometimes ecstatic thing.

The Necks

This is a one-track album that goes for 56 mins. The Necks are an Australian jazz (to use the term loosely) trio who have been playing since the 80s. They've made many albums; this is their first. It has been said of this track that if you had the time it would be a great one to make love to. That may be true. Its hypnotic, pulsing quality is equally good at getting you through a tough morning at the desk.

Sigur Rós
"Untitled 4" from ( )

Sigur Rós are for me the apogee of this 'non-lyrical, atmospheric, ambient or mood music'. Their albums were all on high rotation during the writing of The Cook. Untitled 4 is the fourth track on their third, nameless album, where Jónsi sings throughout in the made-up language of Hopelandic. This track features the apparently meaningless lyrical refrain, ee-sai-yoh (that's my transcription of it, anyway). During the writing of The Cook I was often thinking about the biblical brothers, Jacob and Esau, shepherd and hunter, deceiver and deceived, and I always liked the fact that this gibberish refrain seemed to be singing the praises of the latter.

Tomasz Stańko Quintet
"Terminal 7" from Dark Eyes

I bought this album about halfway through the writing of the first draft of The Cook. This second track, particularly, was a much-played one as I worked my way towards finishing. It is forward-looking, anticipatory: a great and strange landscape opens up before us. The Tomasz Stańko Quartet became a Quintet for this album, with a change of line-up and the addition of Jakob Bro on guitar. It is this instrument that features subtly, but brilliantly, on Terminal 7.

The Sand Pebbles
"Black Sun Ensemble" from Ghost Transmissions

Speaking of guitars, I love this track and have played it far too often for my ears' own good. The Sand Pebbles are a Melbourne band. This is a loud, 12 minute guitar psych-out with, I have to admit, a few lyrics thrown as well. Where does it fit? I think the best ideas often come once you have downed tools and finished for the day. After a morning at the desk during the writing of The Cook I'd jump on my bike and ride the frantic 25 minutes down the bike track to my 'day job' at the University. Black Sun Ensemble would get me halfway there. If I put it on repeat I could step off the bike at the end ready to conquer the world. It is quiet-loud-quiet done to a 't'.

"Ratts of the Capital" from Happy Songs For Happy People

This track by the Scottish post-rock outfit moves quite quickly from sensible to mad. It should be played loud. It often was.

Silver Ray
"Come on Baby" from New Love

Silver Ray are a Melbourne three-piece who play their own particular brand of improvised post-rock. This is a very special track for me. I can't really explain it, you'll have to listen. I think it's the light against the dark. It is incredibly uplifting. And no-bullshit honest. It has become by default my I've-just-finished-a-novel-and-now-I'm-going-to-have-a-beer track. It's about leaving things behind. It goes for 8 mins. Put it on as you drive into the sunset. Trust me, you'll feel good.

Wayne Macauley and The Cook links:

the author's website

Brisbane Times review
Canberra Times review
Daily Mail review
Guardian review
Irish Examiner review
Readings review

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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