Literary Mixtape: Moby Dick


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: The fearsome great white himself, Moby Dick.

Last week, we made a mixtape for Captain Ahab, so we thought it only fair that the eponymous Moby Dick, Ahab’s raison d’être and the object of his mania, have a mixtape for himself as well. Though Melville’s novel is named after him, Moby appears only very rarely, in just three of the book’s 159 chapters, and of course, when he does show himself, he doesn’t say a word, especially not to ruminate on what kind of undersea music he might be into. Ahab considers the enormous albino sperm whale to be the incarnation of evil, but we’re not so sure that’s the case. Though he does bite off Ahab’s leg and kill almost every member of his crew, the whale is not inherently bad. Rather, he is a frustratingly inscrutable foil for the other characters, and for the reader. We think Moby Dick would probably listen to heady, complex music, mostly instrumental, with a little metal thrown in there for flavor. After all, sperm whales have the largest brains of any animal, so he’s probably smarter than us. Here’s what we think he would lurk in the depths, hunt for legs, and sink the Pequod to.

“Korakrit” — The Octopus Project

Maybe it’s just us, but this song sounds like exactly what we’d want to be listening to if we were whales, spinning about while swimming through coral reefs, swirling currents and schools of fishes.

“Germany to Germany” — Ratatat

The simple repetitiveness of this kind of militant track would be perfect to ease Moby into his many years of circling, tracking, and thinking about Ahab.

“Hunted by a Freak” — Mogwai

He knows how it feels.

“Toccata E Fuga” — Bach

We’re pretty confident that this is what Moby Dick listens to in order to get pumped up to go attack sailors. Nothing screams ‘I’m an ancient cetacean, hear me roar’ quite like Bach.

“Tubular Bells” — Mike Oldfield

Something about this track makes us feel like we’re listening to seafaring tunes from far underwater.

“4’33″” — John Cage

What better music for an underwater giant than the sounds of his own environment? Plus, Moby Dick can totally appreciate John Cage, man. And he knows exactly what it all means. Because he’s smarter than us.

“Icarus’ Dream Suite Opus 4” — Yngwie Malmsteen

Of course Moby Dick listens to Yngwie, the most epic guitarist of them all.

“Executioner Blues” — Do Make Say Think

Every killer has them.

“A Silver Mount Zion” — Godspeed You! Black Emperor

For underwater moments of deep introspection.

“Blood and Thunder” — Mastodon

Well, look, if a band wrote an entire album about you, wouldn’t you listen to it? You would. Plus, it seems like all the cool kids are listening to metal these days.