'Novel Sounds'

Oct 12, 2016

Folk singer Lead Belly attended the MLA conference in 1934 with archivist John Lomax
Credit Public Domain

Rock music has roots in many different musical forms. It is shaped by the blues and jazz. Meanwhile, the narratives in rock songs can be traced back to English ballads.

As rock 'n' roll has grown over the years, so has its relationship with literature, specifically American fiction. "Novel Sounds: American Fiction in the Age of Rock and Roll" is a conference sponsored by the National Humanities Center that explores the reciprocal relationship between literature and rock music and how each constructed an American cultural heritage. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with Florence Dore, co-convener of the conference and associate professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Jonathan Lethem, award-winning novelist, about the ties between fiction and rock music. 

Listen to some of the songs referenced in the conversation below:

"Frankie and Albert" by Lead Belly

"Where Did You Sleep Last Night" by Nirvana

"Kiss" by Prince