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November 18, 2021

Amy Leach's Playlist for Her Essay Collection "The Everybody Ensemble"

The Everybody Ensemble by Amy Leach

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, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Amy Leach continues to amaze with her new collection The Everybody Ensemble, a book filled with short essays profound, thoughtfully absurd, and funny about the natural world.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"Short, pithy, humor-laden essays . . . Nice work from a wise, welcoming observer of the beauteous nature all around us."

In her own words, here is Amy Leach's Book Notes music playlist for her essay collection The Everybody Ensemble:

Note: All of these songs are present in The Everybody Ensemble, some of them explicitly.

"Horizon Variations" by Max Richter

This music never says yes and never says no, or it mixes yes and no together. For the one minute and fifty-two seconds while the piece is playing, my yeses and nos are suspended, and I am relieved of my opinions.

"Ice Cream Truck Song" by Ice Cream Truck

This is an ice cream truck's only song. The ice cream truck is not a versatile musician like a violinist. Listening to some people talk feels like attending a recital by an ice cream truck.

"Don't Think Twice It's All Right" by Bob Dylan. Unlike the ice cream truck's song, this song is infinitely listenable, although when it's on repeat it's funny to think of Bob Dylan singing over and over about leaving but never going through with it. There he goes again, saying goodbye, farewell, he's taking off, but then he just starts singing the song all over again!

"Time" by the Pozo Seco Singers

Time is not like Bob Dylan. Time doesn't just sing about going away. Time really goes away.

"We'll Meet Along the Way" by Hem

This song makes me feel susceptible to everything. It was a good song to listen to when I was writing about pinot noir grapes, themselves susceptible to everything. They're the opposite of Chicago grapes--nothing affects those wild grapevines muscling over apartment buildings. I admire their indomitability, but invulnerable grapes make predictable wine, and I prefer unpredictable wine, like pinot noir.

"Raag Bhoopeshwari" by Ramneek Singh

While I was writing The Everybody Ensemble there were ambient babies in the house. You can tell a lot about a baby from what song you feel like singing when you hold her. One baby inspires you to sing the "Raga Bhoopeshwari" and another baby "Norwegian Wood" and a third baby makes you sing "Hey Baby Que Pasó?"

"(Hey Baby) Que Pasó?" by the Texas Tornadoes

"Hey baby que pasó?" means "Hey baby what happened?" I sang this song to my baby because I wanted him to tell me about pre-existence, as in, "Hey baby what happened before you got here?" But he was a mysterious baby and would not tell me.

"You Needed Me" by Anne Murray

A friend told me that one time he saw a mouse sitting on the armrest of a couch who started to sway back and forth when this song came on the radio. I want to be like that mouse, swaying to Anne Murray, unaware of what's cool and uncool.

"I Sing a Song of the Saints of God" performed by John Fahey

Isn't it strange that there are so many songs about saints but so few songs about snails? If you want to sing about snails I guess you could write your own original song, or another idea is to take a song about "saints" and substitute the word "snails", as in, "I Sing a Song of the Snails of God."

"Sasa Nigun" by Joey Weisenberg

When I listen to music with words the music eclipses the words. Music obscures words, obliterates words, for me. If you are trying to edify me with a message then you should stop singing and just recite the lyrics, because as long as you're singing I can only hear the tune. For all I know you might be singing about pangolins wearing pantaloons or singing in Lithuanian. Words schmords. I like nigunim because a lot of them don't even bother with words. Yai-da-dai-dai-dai...

Amy Leach grew up in Texas and earned her MFA in nonfiction creative writing from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her work has appeared in The Best American Essays, The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and numerous publications, including A Public Space, Orion, Tin House, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. She is a recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Award, and a Pushcart Prize. Her first book was Things That Are. Leach lives in Montana.

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