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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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3 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.

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