Stories sometimes seem like living creatures. The strong ones evolve, flit from one form to another and back again. They pass through languages, forms, format, are not tied to any one medium. There are stories that transcend boundaries and forge connections, sometimes because of the story’s power, sometimes because of the underlying structures that give them power.

Take Lewis Caroll’s instant classic, ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. Steeped in symbolism, riddles, nonsense songs and dream logic, the book has haunted and delighted readers since 1865. But- this is the important part- even if you haven’t read the book but are reading this, its surreal quality, vivid colours and young protagonist possibly inhabit some part of your consciousness. Translations, adaptations, abridged versions proliferate. References from the novel have permeated popular culture, literature, academia,  films and television.

Image courtesy: One of John Tenniel’s illustrations of Alice, source: Pinterest.com

As we ponder on why some stories live on so robustly, here is a new experiment with Alice in Wonderland, a new idea in conjuction with an old story, presented by The Bookshop Band, a group of musicians working out of Scotland. Their work is startling and resonant- creating music borne of stories from books. What follows was sent in to us by Ben Please, a member of the band.

Torchlight presents to you, The Bookshop Band…

“The Bookshop Band started in 2010 as a collaboration with their local independent bookseller who curate the books we read – Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, in Bath, UK – voted twice best UK Independent Bookseller of the Year (2008 / 2011).”

“Nic Bottomley, the shop’s owner, would send us copies of the book by the next author to be visiting the shop for an event. We would read the book and then get together before the event to try to write a couple of songs inspired by it, to perform in front of the author and audience upstairs in the shop.”

“In 2014 Beth and I were invited by the director of the Wigtown Book Festival to come and run The Open Book – a lovely little bookshop in Scotland’s National Book Town. They wanted to test out an idea whereby the shop was run, or rather curated, for a couple of weeks at a time by different artists.”

“We came in January that year and turned the shop into a make-shift recording and audio mixing studio. As customers browsed the bookshelves, we would be mixing an album we had recorded – all inspired by books. At 5pm each day customers were invited to come back and listen to the final mixes of the songs we had worked on that day.”


In the evenings, when the shop was closed, we would get the microphones out and record parts for our next album. One saturday afternoon we even set up to record a tea-party for our song inspired by Alice In Wonderland. You can hear that, recorded in The Open Book, at the start of the song Curious and Curiouser, which also starts the album of the same name – all inspired by fantastical fiction.”

Curiouser and Curiouser

Lyrics:

Follow to a hole
Falling for a while
Passing vertically

One side makes you grow
One side makes you small
What size should one be?

Curious and curiouser
Things aren’t what they seem
Queer old smoking caterpillar
What does all this mean?

Asking questions why
No sense did she find
Alice wanders on

Curious and curiouser
Things aren’t what they seem
Weeping turtle sleepy mouse
It must be time for tea

Curious and curiouser
Things aren’t what they seem
The Queen of Hearts is furious
This life is but a dream

Off with all their heads
Painting flowers red
There’ll be no one left

Curious and curiouser
Things aren’t what they seem
The Queen of Hearts is furious
This life is but a dream

Curious and curiouser
Things aren’t what they seem
The Queen of Hearts is furious

(all photo credits: courtesy, The Bookshop Band)

 

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