Sunday, August 13, 2006

kind of blue

Sometimes when I'm reading, my brain jumps to associate whatever I'm reading with certain music that fits the mood or subject matter of whatever I'm reading. I don't mean like when I'm reading the paper, but if I'm getting into any kind of fiction this usually happens. It's really just part of my loose grip on reality, where everything that happens is a scene in the movie of my life. Anyway, I reread this graphic novel by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale today

For our readers who haven't really delved into the comic book universe, Spiderman might evoke images of action packed fight scenes, supervillians, and the like. While they certainly play a role in this book, they're far from the main focus. Just to catch everyone up on the story here, Peter Parker married Mary Jane, but she wasn't the first girl he ever fell in love with. That title belongs to the character Gwen Stacy. Gwen was an acquantance of Peter's from college, who he started getting closer to right around the time that he met Mary Jane. Gwen would later be killed by the Green Goblin. The storyline in Spider-Man: Blue centers around Peter Parker speaking into a tape recorder on Valentine's Day, years after Gwen's death. He alternates between talking to her directly and speaking about her, recounting the story of how they became close, with his narrative ending at their first kiss. Being that the entire work is titled Spider-Man: Blue and since the first section is entitled "My Funny Valentine", the first music to pop into my head was that of Mr. Miles Davis.

After all, Kind of Blue is the best selling Jazz record of all time and Davis's live record My Funny Valentine from 1964 happens to be one of my favorites in my collection. But more than just a couple similarities in title, the overall mood of the story fits very well with the aesthetic of Miles' blue era work. As Peter Parker sits in his attic, thinking out loud to his tape recorder, he finds himself lost in his own thoughts several times, stumbling over words, and reflecting over mostly happy times with a very bittersweet sense of nostalgia. This is not a superhero story, it's a love story. The main character just happens to be a superhero. For me, and many others I'm sure, Miles' trumpet has always captured a sad and reflective mood that can't be expressed by anyone else, and odd as it may be to find in a comic book, I feel that this book gave me a literary counterpoint to the music. These songs in particular stood out as being good companion songs

"I Fall in Love Too Easily" by Miles Davis

"My Funny Valentine" by Miles Davis

One of the most incredible things about Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale is the way that they create a narrative that looks at a happy moment while keeping a heavy sadness on top of it. Davis' music does this same thing, wonderfully, going off on bright uptempo tangents that still retain the mood of the piece as a whole. Now as wonderful as Davis was at this, I couldn't have a discussion like this without bringing up my personal favorite jazzman of all time, John Coltrane.

I fell in love with Coltrane's sound from the first time I heard him because of how he can drift through so many moods in such a short timespan. This titular track on Blue Train has always stood out for me among his work, and since it's a great emotional roller coaster of a song (and it has the word blue in the title), I felt it appropriate for inclusion here.

"Blue Train" by John Coltrane

Even if you're not a fan of comic books, I would really suggest checking out Spider-Man: Blue. And even if you don't do that, I would really suggest checking out Miles and Trane if you're not already well versed. Just for a quick peek at another boppier side of these two fellows, here's a track off of Miles & Monk at Newport.

"Two Bass Hit" by The Miles Davis Sextet featuring John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderly


Sal Paradise said...

I listened to Either/Or and Birth of the Cool over and over again while I was reading On The Road. May be the coolest combination ever.

Anonymous said...

that's awesome. I listened to a lot of Blue Train and 36 Chambers with that book. I think Dean Moriarty is the Ol' Dirt Dog of the literary world.