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The Pynchon Playlist: Orbit publishes catalog of 927 musical references

The Pynchon Playlist
Orbit, an open-access journal of contemporary American fiction, publishes Christian Hänggi’s article “The Pynchon Playlist: A Catalog and Its Analysis,” another puzzle piece of his exploration of music in Thomas Pynchon’s work.

Thomas Pynchon’s œuvre is infused with music. He wrote lyrics to more than 200 songs which pop up throughout his novels, inserted 720 references to 130 different musical instruments – and has more than 900 identified references to historical musicians and works of music. “The Pynchon Playlist” gathers these historical references, analyzes them statistically, and is able to answer some questions that were hitherto mainly addressed in an intuitive manner: Which novels have the highest density of musical references? What musicians, works of music, genres, genders, performative settings are referred to most often? Are different groups of novels to be made out?

It turns out that if one were to draw two lines of influence for Pynchon's choice of musical material, it would be the technological and commercial developments on the one hand (in other words, a line that has much to do with a historically plausible depiction of the musical landscape) and Pynchon’s own predilections and musical interests (or those of his and subsequent generations), which seem to have become less “serious” and less experimental as his career progressed.

“The Pynchon Playlist” is Christian Hänggi’s latest installment of his exploration of music in Pynchon’s work. He also published an article on Pynchon’s harmonica and kazoo in America and the Musical Unconscious, organized a birthday party for Pynchon with live musical interpretations of Pynchon’s lyrics by Tyler Burba, and compiled a list of more than one hundred bands, songs, and record labels inspired by Pynchon’s work. This summer, he and Tyler Burba will record a CD of songs penned by Pynchon.