Tunes Words

Listening to epic audiobooks and Chris Cornell’s legacy

Adam and Art are listening to two very different things: Adam immerses himself into the world of Warhammer 40,000 via the plethora of audiobooks and Art continues to reflect on and enjoy the legacy of Chris Cornell after his death.

Adam: I may actually take a different direction for this “listening to” post. I have never been a big books-on-tape person, basically because I like to read … a lot. However, when you are trying to work through an entire story arc of books and books and short stories and books and more books, audio books actually help.

Enter “The Horus Heresy,” from Warhammer (this is part of the 40K saga). About two years ago, a couple of friends of mine turned me on this as some summer reading. The summer reading became a marathon-level challenge to try and make it through all of the texts. 30+ books and counting, each around 700 pages on average. Enter audiobooks. I have not been doing a ton of them, just something to make runs a little more interesting, but the storylines in the work have come to life in a fascinating way.

So, why does this belong here? Warhammer – yes … THAT Warhammer (moving from tabletop to video to the books). This story arc raises massive questions about the power of the state over the individual. What were to happen if plurality of belief systems became outlawed at galactic level? What happens when an entire planet’s population’s only job is to work for the perpetual war machine that is considered “The Enlightened Age.”

Moving from the reading to the listening changes the experience for the audience member. Background music is added to dramatic moments. Voices are connected to characters, which may or may not match the expectations or creations in the mind of the audience member. I am surprised as to how quickly the experience for the fan – me – changes from the reading of the words to the hearing/performance of the words.

A question for further consideration has to be asked here as well – and it is an old and well-asked question – is this:

We understand the positionality of the author and the reader with a book, but what about when there is another layer to consider here – that of the production team. Does the fan of the book and the fan of the audiobook occupy the same aesthetic and experiential space?

In any case – I have been listening to that lately … and the new GoTG soundtrack (more on that once I watch the movie about 30 times).

Art: Like many others, I was really stunned by the death of Chris Cornell in May. You could not have been a teenager in the 90s without feeling the impact of the emergence of both mainstream hip hop and grunge music. I was no different.

If one has to choose a side in the great Pearl Jam v. Nirvana divide, I was always a Pearl Jam guy. However, I was also enamored with the music of bands such as Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, Hole, and this list could get really long. So, given how many of these artists lives have been touched by tragedy and, in particular, suicide, it was difficult to hear that it had happened again.

So, what did I do? I reached back into the archive and pulled out two albums I had not paid attention to in a while: the soundtrack to Singles and Temple of the Dog.

As I have been listening, I heard that Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament had said that Cornell was “the greatest songwriter to come out of Seattle.” Bold words given that he included Jimi Hendrix on that list. However, as I listened, really listened again to songs such as Reach Down, Hunger Strike, and Seasons, it sent me back to Badmotorfinger and Superunknown to try and confirm what I was hearing. It was poetry. It was beautiful. If you ever get the chance listen to these songs and follow their lyrics. They are carefully sculpted stories and visions told beautiful language.

Given that Temple of the Dog was a tribute to Cornell’s friend/roommate Andy Wood who died early of a drug overdose, one passage of Reach Down really sticks out to me now:

And I got room to spread my wings
and my messages of love, yeah
Love was my drug
But that’s not what I died of
So don’t ya think of me
Cryin’ louder than some billion dollar baby
Oooh, I wanna rest
I wanna rest
I wanna rest

Rest Chris. Thank you. I am sorry this world caused him so much pain, but I am thankful for the beauty of what Chris Cornell created. Like so many artists, he is gone before his time.

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