What’s All This, Then?
When I started working on Dance for the Ivory Madonna, I put together a tape of songs that I found inspirational, relevant, or just plain evocative. Through the planning and writing processes, these songs were constantly with me -- playing in the car during commuting time, in the background when I was writing, and in my head all the time.
In some of these songs you may recognize the genesis of some ideas, characters, and situations from Dance for the Ivory Madonna. Sometimes the inspiration is direct and obvious; in other cases the song bears little resemblance to what ultimately wound up in the book.
In these notes, I figured I would try to explain how some of the songs relate to the book, along with some reflections on the songs themselves.
Master Jack (Four Jacks and a Jill; from Four Jacks and a Jill)
This song was an obvious precursor of Penylle’s relationship with Jack/Marc Hoister.
Four Jacks and a Jill were a South African folk/pop group of the 1960s. Looking back on it, this song is a pretty courageous attack on apartheid and a social system that used the educational system and restrictions on travel to keep citizens -- particularly young people --ignorant of the rest of the world.
Wrapped Around Your Finger (The Police; from Synchronicity)
Another version of the Marc-Penylle relationship.
Rubenesque (The Duras Sisters; from Rubenesque)
I wasn’t exposed to the Duras Sisters until half the book was written. It’s a pity that I didn’t know about Rubenesque when I was sketching out Miranda’s character. Oh, well, at least I found it in time to include it in the official soundtrack.
Your Move (Yes; from The Yes Album)
This one helped me to get a handle on the relationship between a Nexus operative and his/her boss -- in this case, I see Miranda as the White Queen and Damien saying “Move me onto any black square.”
Of course, such a relationship can become damaging -- unless the boss is wise enough to force her operative to fly on his own.
Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel; from Peter Gabriel)
In this song I see the Nexus watching the U.N. and other governmental bodies, and becoming increasingly disgusted with the way nations play pointless, meaningless games with one another.
Games Without Frontiers probably got me looking into Medecins sans Frontieres, and so was at least a partial inspiration for Jamiar Heavitree.
The Logical Song (Supertramp; from Morning in America)
Here I see Damien’s dilemma…and the solution. As the book begins, Damien (like the singer) is waiting for someone to tell him “who he is.” And (as Miranda knows full well) any true answer to that question can only come from Damien himself.
The Piper (Abba; from Super Trouper)
This is how Marc Hoister’s preaching -- enhanced by Penylle -- affected the population.
And it’s a “dancing” tie-in. I don’t know, perhaps this song gave me the notion of “dancing” for the Ivory Madonna.
La Cage Aux Folles (from La Cage Aux Folles)
This song captures some of the outrageous feel I wanted for the Maris Institute.
The Time Warp (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
In the book, this became the Hyperspace Jig. I still like the original better.
The particular version I used is an extended and enhanced dance mix from Europe. I like to think that this is the version that played at the Institute on Friday nights…
You Don’t Believe (The Alan Parsons Project; from Eye in the Sky)
Another dimension of the relationship between Penylle and Marc Hoister.
I always mis-hear the fourth line as “Well it’s my need, but always your connection,” which seems to connote a junkie/supplier dynamic. It’s that, I think, that informed Marc’s supplying of prolactin -- combined with a synthetic opiate -- to Penylle.
Undun (The Who; from Greatest Hits)
To me, this song is all about Marc gloating over mistakes that Miranda has made. I picture the tone as gleeful as Marc anticipates Miranda’s fall and ultimate destruction.
After the Gold Rush (Neil Young; from Decade)
The first verse inspired InfoPol’s raid on the Institute.
In the second verse I see Penylle’s reaction to being told about Marc’s treachery.
The third verse, of course, is the source for Jack/Marc’s mercy dream at the end of the book. I think this is probably the root of the entire “migration to Mars” theme.
Hallelujah Chorus (Händel; from Messiah)
This played, endlessly repeating, during the hours I was writing the “Dagon’s House” scene. It’s a wonder my housemates didn’t strangle me. The whole Hallelujah Chorus element came from Darkover Grand Council, where the whole convention gathers around the pool on Saturday night to sing the Chorus.
Blood Makes Noise (Suzanne Vega; from 99.9 F°)
I think Suzanne Vega’s jagged, brutal song perfectly captures the anxiety that gripped a world which had seen plague after cruel plague sweep through defenseless populations. “The thickening of fear” is such a marvelous phrase for a constant doom that hung over the world, just as the threat of thermonuclear war was a constant doom hanging over the world in which Miranda grew up.
Part of the Plan (Dan Fogelberg; from Greatest Hits)
Miranda’s plans, Marc Hoister’s plans, the plans of the AIs -- Damien and Penylle are parts of the plan, but whose?
Cobwebs and Dust (Gordon Lightfoot; from If You Could Read My Mind)
Originally, I included this song in the hope that it would help me get a handle on WWH, especially in the scene where Damien and Penylle go to ask his help. Well, it didn’t turn out to be very much of a direct inspiration -- but I think some of the otherworldly tone crept into what I actually wrote.
Oh, and I do know that this song was the reason that WWH had settled on an island…
We Didn’t Start the Fire (Billy Joel; from Storm Front)
This song, as a reflection of the history of the Baby Boom generation, belonged here. It obviously informed a lot of my thinking about the Boomers as a superogranism.
And, of course, finally deciphering the line “children of thalidomide” was what gave me the idea of having Penylle’s mutation spring from the drug miruvorane…
Blinded by the Light (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band; from The Roaring Silence)
The line is “revved up like a deuce,” and it is a clear reference to the famous “little deuce coupe.”
I don’t know why people hate this song so much. Not only is it full of enough evocative names and images to inspire a whole shelf of books, but Manfred Mann’s orchestrated version is so superior, dramatically and in every other way, to Springsteen’s sleepy, mumbled variation, it's just not funny.
This song, more than any other, influenced Dance for the Ivory Madonna. In fact, this song informs just about every chapter of the book.
In particular, in the entire song I see the framework of the Terrad meta-program: that moment when Penylle and Damien brought all of cyberspace to a halt and changed the course of worlds ("With a boulder on my shoulder, feelin’ kinda older, I tripped the merry-go-round; with this very unpleasin’ sneezin’ and wheezin’ the calliope crashed to the ground.”)
You’ll find much more of the song, though, in the book.
There are the Nexus codenames: Silicon Sister, Go-Kart Mozart, Lil’ Hurly-Burly. There are capsule characterizations: Marc Hoister is “some brimstone-baritone, anti-cyclone Rolling Stone preacher from the East” and Penylle is “some silicon(e) sister with her manager mister.”
While I didn’t deliberately try to match events of the book to images from the song, there are echoes all over the place. I’m sure that the police helicopter in Kampala bears some relationship to the line “Little Hurly-Burly came by in his curly-whirly and asked me if I needed a ride.” Likewise, “Indians in the summer” relates to the Navajo homeland and the Dekoa flu outbreak.
Besides all this, the surreal images of the song certainly got me thinking about the different ways that the AIs thought and communicated.
This was another song that I played constantly over and over while I was writing the last chapters of the book.
copyright (c) 2009, Don Sakers
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