Twitter Facebook Tumblr Pinterest Instagram

« older | Main Largehearted Boy Page | newer »

June 3, 2019

Gregory Spatz's Playlist for His Short Fiction Collection "What Could Be Saved"

What Could Be Saved

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 Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Gregory Spatz's short fiction collection What Could Be Saved showcases his gift for lyrical writing of musicians and music, family and other relationships.

NPR Music wrote of the book:

"Spatz curates his language with the care of a skilled instrument maker, shaping the lives of makers and performers and amateur players. He is strong on atmospherics, from the confines of the practice room to the city of Seattle itself."

In his own words, here is Gregory Spatz's Book Notes music playlist for his short fiction collection What Could Be Saved:

Chris Thile: Bach: Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001

What Could Be Saved is all about people who build, buy, trade, sell and play violins, how could it not have a lot of violin music in its DNA? Admittedly, the following playlist will be pretty heavy on violin-centered music. So, I’ll start with a version of this piece, Bach’s unaccompanied violin sonata No. 1, not played on the violin. This piece is featured in the opening scene of What Could Be Saved where main character Paul goes with soon-to-be romantic interest May to a violin shop to help her test-drive violins and she ends up playing it on a violin made by Paul’s father and falling in love with that instrument. I listened to this recording almost daily for a while and find Chris Thile’s rendering of it as poignant, delicate and aching with feeling as any classically trained violinist’s.

Nathan Milstein: Bach: Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004

At the end of the first novella in What Could Be Saved, main character Paul comes up the stairs of the house he lives in and imagines that he hears this piece being played by May inside. Truth is, I had it playing in the back of my head through the entire final stretch of the story and hadn’t known what fate would await Paul and May until he was heading up those stairs and imagined hearing this music. Only then I knew. The grief, the bursts of discordance, the despair and dawning hope. It is a beast of a piece of music, a musical and artistic paragon. I’ve always loved Milstein’s playing of it best – loose and perfect and full of feeling.

Holy Modal Rounders, Michael Hurley, "The Slurf Song"

From the sublime to the completely silly… While I was working on What Could Be Saved, my wife Caridwen and I spent a fall sabbatical leave in Portland, ME where one of the best and most inspiring perks was being included at the weekly “bluegrass” shows at Otto Pizza Monday and Tuesday nights. Such great music and such a great sense of community! This song was one of many anthems featured almost weekly and I came to really appreciate its melancholic irreverence and total commitment to frank silliness. “Oh little wishbone I’ll make a wish for a potato…” Yep.

Joyce Andersen conjures Jimi Hendrix

It took me until the end of working on What Could Be Saved to realize that all along it had been a meditation on tradition and destiny – how you can fight what appears to be the most obvious path forward in your life, or accept it – as seen through the lens of the violin world, where these forces of tradition and innovation are so strong and extend back hundreds of years. Along the way, again because of that leave in Portland ME, I had the opportunity to reconnect with my old friend Joyce Andersen who is truly forging her own path, with looping pedals and special effects, amazing technical skill, charm, and indefatigable genius. Another huge inspiration!

Jack Devereux, "Breaking Up Christmas"

The band I play with, John Reischman and the Jaybirds, had just finished tracking its sixth CD recording, On A Winter’s Night, when I headed to Maine to work intensively on What Could Be Saved. The recording included this tune, “Breaking Up Christmas,” which I was happy to play with Jack Devereux, a ridiculously gifted young musician and violin builder. Here he is tearing it up solo. Talk about tradition. One side of his family has roots going back hundreds of years in North Carolina, the other has roots going back further than that in Ireland. Every time he plays, you hear that musical DNA channeling right through him into the music.

John Reischman and the Jaybirds, "Oh Watch the Stars"

This was my favorite song from that Jaybirds recording On A Winter’s Night, the CD whose genesis most overlaps with the writing of this book. Beyond knowing that it comes from the Peggy Seeger songbook, we don’t know much about its origins. It seems ancient to me. I love it for its simplicity, its truth and the evocative movement of the vocal line.

Caridwen and Greg Spatz, "Reel Me Out"

Though we didn’t get around to recording it until fairly recently, this is a song Caridwen wrote some years ago and which we played and performed regularly at the same time that I was working on What Could Be Saved. Favorite and most relevant line, going back to that old tradition and destiny theme: “My heart’s a minnow, there’s a hook in me.”

"Crazy Man Michael," The Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson wrote this ancient-sounding song after some very tragic events in his life, which I won’t go into here. I first heard it as a kid, maybe age 5 or 6, and listened to it obsessively for years but then forgot all about it until one smoky apocalyptic-seeming summer day in Spokane, closing in on the ending of What Could Be Saved, when it popped up on my Pandora playlist. I became obsessed all over again, playing it, listening to it, resurrecting old childhood memories and becoming convinced that our fate, generally, must always be to kill the thing that we love the most, unwittingly or not – almost like we have no say in the matter. Nothing seems to drive that home more forcefully for me than finishing a book…or listening to this song. Or both.

"Bohemian Rhapsody," Queen

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Will we ever know? Will there ever be a day that this song doesn’t pop up on some internal playlist in my brain? Will I ever know why? Has there ever been a better song?

Gregory Spatz and What Could Be Saved links:

the author's website

NPR Books review

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Half as Happy
Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Inukshuk
Spokane Public Radio interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Support the Largehearted Boy website

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists