Although I am not musical myself (the only instrument I play is the iPod, nyuk nyuk), I am a huge music fan. I listen to music incessantly while writing. It affects how I think, how I feel, and what I type.
This is a list of songs that either feature prominently in Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet or were important to me in the writing of it.
"Until the Day You Die"
I can’t even count how many times I listened to this while writing, revising, or simply thinking about Magruder’s. If Magruder’s were a film, this is the theme.
“Gone is Gone"
Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship?
Ach, I love this band! So good. Their dissonance takes a little getting used to, I guess, but your diligence will be rewarded. This whole album was on constant repeat when I worked on the book. Did I mention I love this band?! SO GOOD.
“My Little Coney Isle”
From 1903, this song is referenced during a key moment in the book. A real recording from the real period that my imaginary characters really would have known.
“In the City of Sighs and Tears”
J. W. Myers
Another song mentioned in the book—a number 4 hit from 1904. It’s almost played on Zeph’s makeshift victrola but then it's rejected by other characters as being “too sad.” You be the judge.
“Coney Island Baby”
Mostly I am recommending songs here, more than the actual videos. But in this case, I do highly recommend the video below. Waits's aching melody (not unlike Myers’s! Waits knows his source material) has been set to archival footage from Coney Island. This sure sounds like it would have fit right in at Zeph’s place—on a sad day, at least.
“Wade in the Water”
Fisk Jubilee Singers
Zeph’s beloved Fisk Jubilee Singers. Gorgeous. Enough said.
This is a weird (in the best way) but upbeat one from the modern group, Man Man. This would get more than a few spins whenever I was trying to get in the Magruder’s headspace.
“Waiting for a War”
the morning benders
OK so this is not “right” in terms of the sound, but it’s catchy and the lyrics always put me in mind of the younger characters like Kitty, Zeph, Spencer, and (most especially) Nazan.
"I’m getting tired of living my life
Like nothing’s happening . . .
I'm getting tired of everybody talking
And not doing a thing.
Here I am in the graveyard
Waiting for a war."
“Closer Walk / Didn’t He Ramble”
Original Tuxedo Jass Band
I think I’ll end with another song from a key moment in Magruder’s. This version is from the 1960s, so it clearly isn't the right period. But it’s a great version, and I love how it gives you the sense of what a second-line would be like as it progresses from mournful to celebratory.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if the women don’t get you, the liquor must.