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What Writers Listen To As They Write, And Readers As They Read

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2010 file photo, Itzhak Perlman plays the violin during the National Menorah lighting in celebration of Hanukkah near the White House in Washington.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File

Several years ago, I read that John Steinbeck listened to classical music while writing "The Grapes of Wrath." What a juxtaposition of storylines!

That little fact changed the way I do my job. I started to think about what other writers listen to as they write. I wondered what music pops into readers’ heads as they consume a good book.

As host of CapRadio Reads, I provide playlists that link music to our book selections. We play the music at our events, to the enjoyment of authors and our live audience. I’ve included everything from Simon and Garfunkel to punk to opera to French nursery rhymes.

Most of the time, I enjoy developing playlists connected with books. But this month, I’ve found the process quite humbling.

The book is "Chasing Portraits." Author Elizabeth Rynecki will discuss how she has tracked down some of the paintings her great-grandfather painted and hid around Warsaw in World War II.

How could I do that? How do I compile a playlist that is interesting while showing ultimate respect for the people who lost their lives in the Holocaust?

The answers came slowly and with a lot of research. The music is a moving reflection of the time.

NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli produced a feature in 2013 called, “Honoring 'Our Will To Live': The Lost Music Of The Holocaust.”

Italian musician Francesco Lotoro shares recordings of music he discovered. Some of it is happier than I imagined. The goal of singers in the camps was to raise the spirits of other prisoners. The web story includes recordings of the following:

  • "Reichsbahnlied" by Ljowa Berniker
  • "Fahijad" by Shaul Flajszhakier
  • "Lagerue" by Frida Misul (tune of Beer Barrel Polka)
  • "Ich Liebe Dich" (I Love You) by Willy Rosen
  • "Noche del Plegaria" (A Night of Prayer) by Jozef Kropinski
  • "Floep the Stamper" by Johnny & Jones (aka Nol van Wesel and Max Kannewasser)

Pianist Francesco Lotoro, who figured prominently in Poggioli’s story, has recorded his own compositions, including his “Terezin Suite.”

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has a considerable collection of music, categorized by genre and location

The soundtrack of Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List features an unforgettable musical theme:


Other traditional music reflects the history of Poland:

Note: You can join Donna Apidone In Conversation with author Elizabeth Rynecki on Tuesday, Nov. 14. Reservations at www.capradio.org/reads

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