Tuesday, October 19

Nancy Campbell’s Playlist: 10 Songs From My Travels | Top 10


Chip Wave Hill (Driftwood) by Jean Sibelius

I never travel without a necklace that has a tiny bronze figure from the Finnish epic Kalevala. This talisman was gifted to me by Anna-Kaisa, a teenage music prodigy, at a summer exchange when I was 15 years old, which launched my love for all things Nordic. That summer I took my first sip of blackberry vodka, took my first sauna, and learned how to row a boat – all revolutionary for a child from a family that had never been abroad on vacation. Anna-Kaisa and I became close friends, and I often returned to Helsinki for more saunas and vodka, and to listen to her accompany the seductive soprano Karita Mattila at the opera house.

Love Among Sailors by Laurie Anderson

Artists residence Upernavik, Greenland
Artists residence Upernavik, Greenland Photography: Nancy Campbell

Fierce storms, continuous night and mercurial ice: Winter is a challenging time to travel between settlements in Greenland, where I lived for three months in 2010 on an art grant. I immersed myself in life on the island of Upernavik and got down to work to get to know this welcoming community in depth.

I learned about the wider archipelago from hunters who knew the waters off the northwest coast intimately, and shared sober conversations about sea ice conditions over coffee or a cup of seal stew. As the weeks went by, sometimes it seemed like he would never leave the island. This ballad, written by Anderson at the height of the AIDS epidemic, recovers all the loneliness and threat of polar darkness.

Folon by Salif Keita

Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore, Paris.
Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, Paris. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe / The Guardian

I wonder if the days of being able to travel on impulse are gone forever. One day, in my second term at university, I decided to skip lectures and booked a seat on the Eurostar to Paris leaving the next day. I got off at the Gare du Nord with just a few euros, a notebook and a bottle of green ginger wine. He planned to seek refuge in Shakespeare and Company, a bookstore that had long been a beacon for poets. George Whitman (the shop owner) smiled, said he loved green ginger wine and told me that I could climb the stairs between the books in exchange for cleaning the windows; showed me how, using old newspapers. In the evening, I shared the tent with a handful of traveling writers who passed on countless recommendations for books and music, and advised me on the best coffees to secretly wash up each morning. This exquisitely nostalgic song (Folon means “in the past” in Bambara) by the great Salif Keita was a discovery worth missing a few lectures for.

A day in Ballboy’s space

The Meadows, Edinburgh.
The Meadows, Edinburgh. Photograph: Andrew Milligan / PA

I worked in a bakery in Edinburgh while saving money for my first big expedition: a year living in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. These intervals of preparation are as much a part of a traveler’s life as the time spent abroad and can be an adventure in themselves. I shared a chaotic flat near the Meadows with the manager of the Edinburgh band Ballboy, for which my friend Katie [Griffiths] he played keyboards and some other musicians. It was a year of getting concert guest passes, and the band had just played a John Peel session, so we could all feel the wind in our sails and stardom seemed just around the corner. The boy in this song dreams of looking back at Earth from space and “watching the continents go by and back” – it is an anthem for anyone who dares to imagine limitless possibilities.
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Ára Bátur by Sigur Rós

Siglufjörður, where Campbell slept in a cabin recently vacated by the singer Jónsi.
Siglufjörður, where Campbell slept in a cabin recently vacated by the singer Jónsi. Photograph: Patricia Hamilton / Getty Images

These days you will find almost as many artists and musicians as fishermen on the north coast of Iceland. When I arrived in Siglufjörður (later famous for being the location of the TV drama Trapped), my host Guðný gave me me the key to my cabin, saying: “Jónsi was the last person who slept in your bed. “El Sigur Rós Lead The singer’s falsetto found an echo in the sound of the wind that moaned through the fjord and blew through the gaps in my iron ceiling. This song about a dangerous journey captures the stark beauty of that landscape, which demands so much courage and determination from those who live there. I love that it’s partially sung in a made-up language the band calls “Vonlenska” or “Hopelandic”, suggesting something beyond words.

Because patti smith night

Patti Smith at CBGB's, New York, in 1975.
Raw darkness … Patti Smith at CBGB’s, New York, in 1975. Photograph: Richard E Aaron / Redferns

I often write about islands, but there is one in particular that has drawn me over and over again as an unshakable addiction. I got to know New York one summer, working in an art studio in a former warehouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. During the day I worked on iron printers and suffocating vats of molten lead, but through the large windows I could see gleaming skyscrapers across the East River, and the nights were mine to explore Manhattan. Patti Smith’s voice has a raw darkness pierced by an energy that will forever remind me of the dirty, chaotic, utterly beautiful pulse of those nights at Williamsburg rooftop parties and Hell’s Kitchen dungeons, and that made sense when later I read your own story. of his 20 years in the city, Just Kids.

The Sleepers by Fred Hersch

Chicago skyline
Chicago Photograph: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

A few years ago I was commissioned to interview artist Lynne Avadenka, and we agreed to speak during the five-hour drive from her home in Detroit to Chicago, where we both had scheduled meetings. Conversations on the road, with friends or strangers, often have an urgent intensity and this was no exception. Towards the end of the trip, Lynne began to play Fred Hersch’s extraordinary sets of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and it was with these sweet blue notes that our tiny Toyota swooped down a flyover and into the Windy City. .

Station to station by David Bowie

David Bowie performs on the Station to Station tour in 1976.
David Bowie performs on the Station to Station tour in 1976. Photography: Les Lambert / Rex

I finished the manuscript for The Library of Ice at the Jan Michalski Foundation, an arts center and writers’ retreat in the foothills of the Swiss Jura. Each writer is given a “tree house,” a state-of-the-art cabin, which hangs from a massive concrete canopy designed to reflect the surrounding forests. Dan Richards was there at the same time, working on his book Outpost. As the mountain peaks disappeared and the lights of Lausanne began to shine on the southeastern horizon, we ended the day with conversation, music, whiskey, and the local specialty, cheese biscuits. This prelude to Bowie’s days in Berlin brings back those quiet discussions about future travel, the passing hours punctuated by the occasional flash of a small local train rattling through the dark valley.

Over and Over by Miles Davis

It is the eternal traveler’s dilemma: caught between the appeal of familiar places and the yearning for new horizons. There are cities that I love to return to, Munich is one of them, that satisfy both instincts, offering simple familiarity and amazing aspects in each new encounter, just as an original recording resonates in each subsequent version of a song. I also wish I could travel back in time to see Miles Davis perform this sublime instrumental version of Cyndi Lauper’s hit during a 1988 concert at the Munich Philharmonic.

Listen, the snow is falling for Galaxie 500

Snow in South Park, Oxford, in January 2021.
Snow in South Park, Oxford, in January 2021. Photograph: Greg Blatchford / Rex

Last year I was locked up in Oxford writing a book about snow in different cultures around the world. Many kind people sent me melodies and popular songs on a snow theme, of which my favorite is this magical version of a Yoko Ono original. The lyrics feel even more poignant at a time when weather patterns may sweep across the globe, but humans must stay home. One of the hopes of these difficult times is that, instead of stopping traveling, we have discovered the possibilities of traveling in our imaginations.

Nancy campbell is the author of Fifty words for snow (Elliott and Thompson, hardcover, £ 11.30 at GuardianBookshop) Y The ice library, (Simon and Schuster, £ 9.29 at GuardianBookshop)


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