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Tin Ear: J.G. Ballard’s Novels Translated into Sound

Author: • Oct 1st, 2016 •

Category: features, Lead Story, music

‘I’ve a tin ear, I’m afraid. I’ve never bought a single record, cassette, CD or whatever. I don’t own a record player of any kind… It’s a big defect, I admit. If my girlfriend’s playing Mozart or Serge Gainsbourg’s lovely songs, I enjoy them tremendously. But on my own I’ve never felt the need. I don’t know why. It’s just some gene that skipped me.’

J.G. Ballard, interviewed in 1996

Clearly I have too much time on my hands… here’s a Spotify playlist I devised consisting of songs that share titles with every one of Ballard’s novels.*

Most are clearly influenced by the corresponding Ballard book; with the rest, it’s just a coincidence…

* There’s no song called ‘Super Cannes’ on Spotify, so I included the song ‘When People Die in Small Rooms’ by the band Super Cannes.

PS: there’s a lot of dross on Spotify (e.g. search for ‘Drowned World’ and see what you find), so I hope you appreciate my curatorial skills in selecting the best of the best for each title. Hands up: this playlist is all over the shop, veering from thrash metal to glam to new romantic to ambient to folk to J-pop to dubious pop. In some cases, there is only one match for a particular Ballard book, so you gets what you gets….

Even so, I think the overall effect is suitably Ballardian… Long live the new flesh, eh?

PPS: to make life more interesting I avoided well-worn classics like ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ by Joy Division, and obvious choices like Ballard film cues (e.g. Clint Mansell’s High-Rise score).

Track listing:

+ Wind from Nowhere – Uzect Plaush (Paul Schutze)
+ The Drowned World – Johan Johannsson
+ The Drought – My Beloved
+ The Crystal World – Locrian
+ The Atrocity Exhibition – Exodus
+ Crash – Gary Numan
+ Concrete Island – Hari Karaoke Trio
+ High Rise – Hawkwind
+ The Unlimited Dream Co. – Cortez
+ Hello America – Carlo Grimelli
+ Empire of the Sun – Orochi
+ Day of Creation – Kamikaze Space Programme
+ Running Wild – Axe
+ The Kindness of Women – Mo Boma
+ Rushing to Paradise – Huerco S.
+ Cocaine Nights – Quills
+ When People Die in Small Rooms – Super Cannes
+ Millennium People – Life+
+ Kingdom Come – David Bowie

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4 Responses »

  1. An outstanding collection Simon!

  2. One of the countles remixes of Björk´s Hyperballad bears the mix-title “Hyperballard”.
    I don´t know if Madonna was inspired by Ballard when she called a whole world tour “The Drowned World Tour”.
    There was a pretty good British post-punk band called “The Comsat Angels”.
    Discogs lists 3 bands as Vermilion Sands.

    A German Industrial act called Cranioclast was heavily influenced by Ballard. On their first album Koltlaransk (1985) almost every song title is a german translation of a Ballard short story or a chapter of his novels (Der Tote Japaner, Das Gift des Toten Hundes). Other “songs” like “Eine Mumie duscht in 12 Einstellungen” (A Mummy takes a shower in 12 scenes) directly refer to ballardian subject matter. The album came with a booklet full of ballardian imagery and direct quotes from the man himself.

  3. Interesting stuff. You might also include ‘Mausoleum’ by the Manic Street Preachers. If features a sample of Ballard talking at the beginning.

  4. What about the albums “Ballard Landscapes” and Ballard Landscapes 2″ by Cousin Silas? You probably can’t find these on Spotify. Experimental stuff, soundscapes. Free download at Earth Monkey: https://archive.org/details/earthmonkey?&sort=-downloads&page=2

    Ballard Landscapes track listing:

    Empty Airport
    Reservoir Outlet Shaft
    Manhole 66
    The Crystal Jungle
    The Death of Marilyn Monroe
    Submarine Pens
    Observation (Day 7) – Dealey Plaza
    Abandoned Paddy Fields
    Inland Lagoon
    High Rise Isolation
    Process of Subliminal Decay
    Track 12 (The Kiss)
    Bikini Atoll
    Isolation in Suburbia
    Flight Over Abandoned Village

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