Saturday, January 30, 2010

Music: Just another afropunk neo-soul goth jazz rock single.

So I've got this musical genre that, prior to this post, only two people knew about. It's called Mr. Norrell music, after the fantasy doorstop Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

See, perhaps my most embarrassing hobby, aside from my love of coating stray cats in epoxy adhesive to see what random bits of street clutter they'll pick up (there's an early-career Hans Arp-ish aspect of giving up some control over you creation process that appeals to me) or calling up randomly selected elderly people and reading them selections from Story of the Eye (El Granero's death gets them crying every time), is making up needle drops for the soundtracks of films that don't exist. It's to music coordinators what fantasy league baseball is to owning a team. Sometimes the not-a-movie is a fairly abstract thing, like a generic heist film set in the 1980s or a romcom set against the backdrop of the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror. Sometimes it's very specific, like a movie adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

For those who have never read the book (which includes me, oddly enough, I only know it from what my wife's told me), it's tale of rival magicians set against a Napoleonic War Era Europe were the magical lands where fairies live are accessible and treated like any another geo-political entity. I don't know how I got on the idea (like I said, I never bothered to read the book), but slowly I started to gather needle drops on the premise that there would essentially be two soundtrack plans. In the human world, period correct music would be used: Hummel, Beethoven, Méhul, and so on. In the fairy lands, however, the music would be wildly anachronistic - as if the fairy folks didn't have the same sense of time and all styles were simultaneously available to them. The result was a darkly sexy fusion, preferably an anxious patchwork of musical styles that seem like they shouldn't hang together. Songs that could fall into this category got dubbed "Mr. Norrell" music.

I finished that un-soundtrack several years ago, but every now and then I'll hear something that's Mr. Norrell. Janelle Monae's sexy, creepy, nuanced fusion of jazzy, garage rock, punk soul is very Mr. Norrell. Not a real video, sadly; but it is really the song that's the draw anyway. Here's her "War of the Roses (Come Alive)."

7 comments:

Troy Z said...

CRWN:

Thanks for making the introduction to Ms. Monae.

It looks like names on the track listings alone for her album "Metropolis: The Chase Suite" is worth the price of admission. A few of these titles even sound like they're from a late '80s Voivod album. I am intrigued, oh my yes.

Scrymarch said...

Well now I'm wondering what the soundtrack to a buddy movie about lesbian cousins set against the background of the Boer War really should be.

CRwM said...

Scrymarch,

Of the top of my head, I'm leaning towards all Cat Stevens. But I'd not married to that idea and I'd never to cogitate on it.

RaYMaN said...

Janelle Monae is definitely whats now, and whats next. I can't wait for her next suite and all the pandemonium that will come with it.

Scrymarch said...

Hmm, Cat Stevens, pre-Muslim conversion I assume ... not that I'm missing the appeal of using the call to prayer.

http://wondaland.blogspot.com said...

I believe Janelle Monae is under-rated and definitely on another level than many music artitsts out today. She's pretty dope!

Elle said...

I think this Mr. Norrell genre sounds really cool. I love this song by JM! Her music is alway amazing to listen to because of the diversity of genres one can find in any given song!