One of things I love most about both books and music is their power to transport you to whole new worlds. Discovering something that combined the two was consequently cause for much celebration – and the start of a wonderful new adventure in the hands of The Bookshop Band.
The idea behind The Bookshop Band is one of those things that’s so sublimely simple, you wonder why nobody thought of it before.
They write songs inspired by books they have read and perform them in bookshops to authors and readers.
It’s a premise that certainly seems to have struck a chord. Word of the band has spread like wildfire, their popularity has soared and this year even Glastonbury Festival came knocking. When I heard that one of the next stops of their summer 2013 tour was here in Cornwall, as part of Penzance LitFest 2013, I couldn’t believe my luck. I jumped at the chance to dive into their enchanted imaginarium, where books and music reign supreme – getting in a good Feed while there.
Hop-scotching from folk tales to steampunk, children’s classics to contemporary fiction, The Bookshop Band draws its inspiration from an eclectic literature mix. The result is a spellbinding patchwork of songs that transport you into a wonderland of storyworlds.
As we travelled from the Arctic (‘Steady On’, a song inspired by Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter) to Paris (‘The Paris Wife’, inspired by Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife), to ‘Albertian’ London (‘Smog Over London’, inspired by Mark Hodder’s The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack), I was reminded of the Wood Between the Worlds in The Chronicles of Narnia, where hundreds of pools lead into other worlds.
Listening to each song was like dipping your toe into one of the pools, a doorway into the world contained within the pages of the book. Or tumbling down the rabbit hole, like Alice, to find yourself in a strange and wonderful new land (as I write this, in my mind I can still hear the delicious, haunting refrain of The Bookshop Band’s homage to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Have a listen here to ‘Curios and Curioser’, but beware, when you’ve heard it once you’ll be hooked).
To top it all off, as part of the performance, authors read extracts from the books that inspired the songs. On this particular evening we were treated to readings from Patrick Gale and Damian Barr.
Feeding in action
Listening to Damian Barr reading an extract from Maggie and Me , then hearing the song, Wednesday’s Walk, which was inspired by the book, you could see the creative baton being passed from the author to the musicians. I realised that what I was seeing was Feeding in action. Here at Stranger Collective, we keep our thinking fresh by spending time on activities that nurture the creative spark. The theory being that lightbulb moments happen as a result of the cross-pollination of ideas.
As the band began to play, as if by magic, the words on the page expressed themselves through fingertips on the strings of a guitar or a cello, or the keys of a harmonium. Characters, settings and moods came to life, as rhythms, melodies and harmonies. The songs breathed new energy into the stories, acting as portals into their worlds, but also taking them somewhere new, adding a fresh and sometimes unexpected dimension to their telling.
Words that had been framed within a book, pinned down like butterflies in a display cabinet, took flight from the page, released into the element of music, assuming new patterns and coalescing into beautiful new shapes to the intrigue and delight of the audience. And it was in this moment you could feel the baton passing hands: setting the wings of creativity aflutter in the minds of the listeners.
Picking up the baton
Having spent an evening being transported from the Arctic to Wonderland, via Paris, London, and Cornwall’s shores, my ever-expanding reading list has grown that bit longer. I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the books I was introduced to through the songs.
If you too are hungry for an inspiring read, head on over to The Bookshop Band’s guestbook where you can peruse the recommendations for some seriously mind-expanding reading matter. Pick up the creative baton yourself, delve deep into one of these books and see where it takes you.
Whether or not it inspires you to write a song, a poem, or the next bestseller is by the by – it will lead you somewhere, that much I guarantee. Prepare to lose a heapful of happy hours refuelling your imagination and exploring the wonderlands waiting between the covers.