Spooky, wonderful music CD in Neal Stephenson's new novel

Al got an advance review copy of neal Stephenson's new book Anathem -- which looks really good! -- and discovered that it came wiht a CD of music inspired by the story. Incredibly weird, wonderful music.
I’ve just listened to several of the songs on this CD and, frankly, this is some weird shit. I say this without reservation. The musical styles are all over the map except that they all only use human voices (and occasionally hands). Some of it is similar to Western, Christian, styles of chanting. Other tracks are more Classical vocal arrangements with singing. The rest of the tracks seem to be heavily influenced by Eastern, Buddhist, styles of chanting, especially Tibetan Buddhism with its use of harmonics and overlaying voices. It varies quite a bit from song to song. Additionally, when there are recognizable words, they are not in English (nor in any language that I recognize). “Celluar Automata” is the weirdest track of this sort with multiple voices weaving in and out, along with some clapping and exclamations in an unknown language. “Thousander Chant” would be at home on some of the collections of Tibetan chanting that I have and whoever is performing it is obviously trained in the throat chanting used by Tibetans and others in Asia.
As it happens, I actually know the guy who made this -- it's David Stutz, the former free software maven for Microsoft whose resignation letter was a brilliant work of analysis explaining just what Microsoft should be doing to co-exist with free/open source software. He was also a key developer for the NeXT, Visual Basic and a lot of other widely used technologies. These days, he has a winery and makes incredibly strange, beautiful traditional music. Link (Thanks, Al!)

See also: Ask Neal Stephenson questions about Anathem


  1. The description of the music reminds me of a CD by David Hykes & the Harmonic Choir “Earth to the Unknown Power”. It’s a mixture of styles with gregorian, tuvan throat-singing, tibettan, etc. influences. Sounds very cool, and would love to hear it.

    I wonder if there is a download for the music from the book?

  2. I wonder if this will hit the South American bookstores anytime soon, and if will keep this format. Is the music created somehow to accompany the reading of the book?

    There’s an Argentinian drone/doom band called Sarghuma Incoxis, whose latest CD-EP was released with a short story, intended to be read along with the music. Sadly, I only got part of the music… I’m a lazy bum, I should try to get the full thing.

  3. Oh, what a great idea. I didn’t think I could get more excited for this book, but obviously I was wrong – that’s fucking cool. I really hope there’s a Shaftoe in it, though.

  4. As the author of the blog post, I will say it isn’t clear what the music is for in any way. I assume it is meant to accompany the book but it is simply slipped into a plastic sleeve inside the front cover of the ARC that I have with some text about it (names of the tracks, etc.) on the facing page.

    The book, at the very beginning, defines the term “Anathem” (the title) as:

    Anathem: (I) In Proto-Orth, a poetic or musical invocation of Our Mother Hylaea, which since the tme of Adrakhones has been the climax of the daily liturgy (hence the Fluccish word Anthem meaning a song of great emotional resonance, esp. one that inspires listeners to sing along).

    It goes on a bit from there but I would guess, given that this is the title of the book, that the music is included because of the word’s (and probably themes in the book) relationship to song. I’ll know more once I read this entire tome.

  5. I’ve been eagerly waiting for a new Stephenson book, and this just adds to my excitement. I know it won’t be what I’m expecting, it’ll probably be better than that.

  6. Let’s face it. You don’t care about this music at all. You just want to rubs our faces in the fact that you got the book already!


    /You DOG!

  7. I didn’t think Stephenson could pull it off, but he did. Anathem is has more pages than Cryptonomicon, 960 vs. 928.

    I am very much looking forward to reading every one of them! :)

    The CD sounds interesting as well, hopefully it’s included with the hardcover.

  8. MATTAZUMA, he’s trying to make it so you can’t read it in 3 weeks!!

    /In the first few weeks of checking out a NEW book from our library, you generally can’t renew it, because somebody else has a request for it.


  9. Excellent! I bought the Real Tuesday Weld CD when I believe it was posted on here that it was inspired by or accompanying music for the book I, Lucifer. Music + Book combos are awesome.

  10. The inclusion of a Shaftoe would be pretty cool. Or maybe Enoch Root will be kicking it in the monastary.

    I am SOOO looking forward to this book. I bet I will finish it within a week of receiving it, at the expense of trivial timesinks like sleep, personal hygiene, eating, etc.

  11. I also received an ARC; the music is very interesting indeed, and definitely sets the mood for the “Mathic” world Raz lives in. I wonder if the novel will ship with the CD or if the website will make the songs available for download.

  12. Hey folks, I also got an advanced reader copy of Anathema (mine came from the excellent http://librarything.com )

    I haven’t finished the behemoth so far, and this isn’t really giving away a spoiler, but I don’t expect to see a Shaftoe or Enoch Root.

    Anathem is set in an entirely different world as far as I can tell.

    So far.
    But it is Neal Stephenson writing this, so I couldn’t honestly predict what craziness is coming down the pipe.

  13. Beauty? Pah. I bet none of this is as tenth as beautiful as a flamenco cante by Camaron de la Isla, or (tonight’s flamenco special) Estrella Morente.

  14. Only mild disappointment with the revelation that the CD is sold separately. And not actually available as of this writing.

  15. The “Thousanders Chant” on the CD is even more eerie and chilling in the context of having read the book. I would definitely recommend book before music. Both are incredible…I’ve *never* read a book so quickly in my life!

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