a bookish play-like essay-song

May 13, 2007

The sublimely postmodern style of The Books has had me hooked literally since I first heard them at my friend Josh’s apartment. We were having a fun and spirited philosophical discussion, which had a momentary lull. That allowed me the opportunity to experience The Books for the first time, which, previously in the background of our conversation, jumped to the foreground in an almost seamless manner continuing on as a veritable and formidable third party to our colloquy. Since then they have remained the first thing I think of whenever someone mentions either “music” or “postmodernism.” Postmodern in the sense that their music is a contestable whole comprised of seemingly random spoken word samples, their own guitar and cello snipets, etc. This patchwork structure gives the music a feeling of a composed instigation, rather like the feeling one gets from reading a good essay. Rather than pontificate further on the subject, I’d prefer to illustrate the point by simply quoting one of their songs at length in a play format. That is, I will introduce each “voice” in the song as a character and add additional narratorial comments in italics to indicate that they do not actually appear in the song itself. The song is, “Be good to them always,” from their 2005 album “Lost and Safe.”


A middle-aged British man: “Here we are. Here we are… We are antici… There it is! There it is. That’s the picture.”

(A record plays an electric cello. The record skips repeatedly throughout the scene.)

A middle-aged British man: “You see.. see it for yourself. There it is. It’s a man… There it is. With… uh…”

Narrator (in a tone of increasing depth): “Be good to them always.”

Zammuto: “You know, I simply cannot understand people. Oh, how sadly we mortals are deceived by our own imagination. This is not real life. This is for us aleatoric television.”

Zammuto and de Jong (playing cello) in unison: “A mixed consort of soft instruments.”

Zammuto and Ted Koppel in unison: “I can hear a collective rumbling in America.”

Zammuto and strangely accented European woman wearing too much make-up (in unison): “I’ve lost my house. You’ve lost your house.”

Zammuto and small British child in unison: “I don’t suppose it matters which way we go.”

Zammuto and other Britsh man in unison: “This great society is going smash.”

(Cello comes hesitatingly into the sonic foreground.)

Zammuto and deep voiced woman (shaking her head) in unison: “Oh he’s in the middle of putting himself together, and organizing himself.”

Zammuto and banker from the 1920s in unison: “You do not need to stand on one foot.”

Zammuto and Dan Rathers (looking directly at audience) in unison: “The modern town hardly knows silence.”

Zammuto and British classics professor (in uplifted tone) in unison: “You… are something that the whole world is doing.”

Zammuto and English barkeep (as he wipes up spilled beer) in unison: “You know… I simply cannot understand people.”

Zammuto and mysterious cigarette-smoking woman in the window of a cafe in unison: “Oh, how sadly we mortals are deceived by our own imagination.”

Zammuto and quirky homeless man in unison: “This is not real life. This is for us aleatoric television.”

Zammuto and de Jong (playing cello) in unison: “A mixed consort of soft instruments.”

Zammuto and Scottish taxi driver in unison: “A culture is no better than it’s woods.”

Zammuto and Henry David Thoreau (staring off into distance) in unison: “A feeling of being connected with the past.”

Zammuto and London-born Louisianna craps dealer (looking directly at each other) in unison: “Look at it this way: you may fall and break your leg.”

Zammuto and concerned father in unison: “And so one leg is shorter than the other. Can nothing more be done?”

(Blackout. Record stops.)

End of scene.



2 Responses to “a bookish play-like essay-song”

  1. hannahb said

    Whoa. This was quite illuminating and more than a bit delightful, sir. I hope there will be more Books plays in the future!! Clearly you have a talent for them :). (whoa).

  2. will said

    I just found out where the “There it is!” sample originates, and you will definitely enjoy finding out too! Watch this bit about the first transatlantic tv broadcast. The important bit is in the first minute. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glbwD2ehPlg

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