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'Novel Sounds'

An image of folk singer Leadbelly
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

Charlie Shelton-Ormond is a podcast producer for WUNC.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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