After five hours of folding pages and pushing creases, I emerged from my local copy center this afternoon with bruised and battered thumbs, and a box of brand-new little, precious books about the end of the world.
The title of these books, hidden beneath a beautiful cover created by artist and expert stapler Kyler Martz, is The Last Song on Earth: Volume One. It is a collection of essays I commissioned from some of my favorite Seattle critics, writers and musicians, and which was distributed today as part of the Capitol Hill Block Party.
It's only been a couple months since the Block Party asked me to help out with its literary programming, but this project was hatched years ago by myself and my girlfriend, inspired by the Greil Marcus-edited collection Stranded. In that book, essayists were forced to choose only a single album to take on a deserted island and then write about why. My prompt was a little different, and a good deal darker:
The missiles are on their way, the plates are shifting, the aliens have landed, the meteor has breached the atmosphere… You have five, maybe ten minutes left on this Earth. What song is going to play you out?
I asked each writer to pick a single song that answers this question and write an essay or story at least four hundred words in length that explains why. I implored them to not approach this as a recommendation for readers. "This is not a consumer guide or a series of blurbs meant to annotate a glorified playlist," I told them. "That has been done, and also it’s boring. This is an opportunity for you to share your thoughts on a particular song, the end of the world and the manner in which those two things intertwine in your mind. In other words, the 'why' is more important than the 'what.'"
The results were shocking in their beauty and earnestness. I was humbled at what I had been given. It is my pleasure to hand the contributions over to readers.
For the time being, the essays are only available in the books that currently populate the Block Party grounds. They will eventually be made available for order.* In the meantime, here are some photos I took today, plus a list of the essayists and their songs chosen (with links).
The assembly line at Perfect Copy & Print:
The box where little books go:
In their natural habitat, at Moe Bar:
Outside in the beer garden:
Chillin' out in Havana Social Club:
The Last Songs on Earth
“Dance Song ‘97,” by Sleater-Kinney
Essay by Elissa Ball
“Slip Slidin’ Away,” by Paul Simon
Essay by Bryan John Appleby
“Leper Messiah,” by Metallica
Essay by Scott Wagner
Boléro, by Joseph-Maurice Ravel
Essay by Derek Erdman
“Mykonos,” by Fleet Foxes
Essay by Abbey Simmons
“Aces High,” by Iron Maiden
Essay by Trevor Larkin
“Vaporized,” by X-15
Essay by Chris Estey
“I’ll Fly Away,” by Albert E. Brumley
Essay by Chris Kornelis
*If you are interested in purchasing The Last Song on Earth: Volume One, email me. I will notify you when they become available.