Nerdy Mixtape: Songs Inspired by Modernist Literature


It never fails: Every Bloomsday, someone reminds us that Kate Bush’s “The Sensual World” is based on James Joyce’s Ulysses. Not that we mind — it’s always nice to have an excuse to listen to the song again. But this year, it inspired a lit-geek challenge: Could we compile an entire mixtape of songs inspired by modernist masters? While who qualifies as a modernist is a question for literary scholars to debate, we’re pretty satisfied with the 12 songs we’ve chosen. Tell us what you’d include in the comments.

1. Kate Bush — “The Sensual World” (James Joyce’s Ulysses) ytaudio(AJc64xncBt4) 2. Joy Division — “Colony” (Franz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony”) ytaudio(gCRWsFV4-sU) 3. Leonard Cohen — “Take This Waltz” (Federico Garcia Lorca, “The Waltz”) ytaudio(UUtgjjj75_Q) 4. The Cure — “Killing an Arab” (Albert Camus, The Stranger) ytaudio(BD1uGPkxQfA) 5. Crash Test Dummies — “Afternoons and Coffee Spoons” (T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”) ytaudio(j53VGZnW4fU) 6. Iron Maiden — “Brave New World” (Aldous Huxley, Brave New World) ytaudio(4_FDjDwNygM) 7. Rufus Wainwright — “Grey Gardens” (Thomas Mann, Death in Venice) ytaudio(Cdvne96nrzs) 8. The Zombies — “A Rose for Emily” (William Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily”) ytaudio(elbJ4hy5C7A) 9. Nickel Creek — “Eveline” (James Joyce, “Eveline”) ytaudio(bKizkUlgob8) 10. Idlewild — “Roseability” (Gertrude Stein, “Sacred Emily”) ytaudio(Sq9ja554eLg) 11. Bloc Party — “Ion Square” (e.e. cummings, “i carry your heart with me”) ytaudio(9ln4ajmGiqY) 12. Patrick Wolf — “To the Lighthouse” (Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse) ytaudio(Xph2gTfs0pw)