May 22, 2019

A musical journey through The Great Eastern



Listen along HERE.

What would Captain Nemo be without his organ?  In The Great Eastern, the organ aboard the Nautilus was built for him by the legendary designer Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, with pipes crafted from sea-mammal horn. What does Nemo play? The canonical Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Bach, BWV 565. My favorite recording of it is the one by Simon Preston.

In addition, within the novel Nemo can be heard to play Organ Concerto in A Minor, BWV 593, based on Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Violins. Here, too, I am hearing Simon Preston.

Though it isn’t specifically cited within The Great Eastern itself, I’ve often imagined Nemo to be playing Boëllmann’s Suite Gothique, which in my mind sounds exactly like the rendition by Peter Hurford.

Within The Great Eastern many songs are sung: folk ballads, sea chanteys, work songs, and the like. Among them are:


Then there are lyrics in The Great Eastern that are not chanteys at all, nor folk songs, nor did they exist in the time frame that the novel subtends.  Which is to say: fragments of songs, long-resident in the deeper recesses of the author’s mind, that found their way to the surface as I wrote like bubbles in a lava lamp.  Hence, a basket of Easter eggs, which I leave for you to find.


And then, nondiagetically, we have the music listened to while composing the novel. We have the above-cited organ music by Hurford and Preston, but also

And, above all Philip Glass’s Some Are from his Low Symphony, as recorded by the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra.  That was the theme that, every day over a period of months, took me back down beneath the waves to continue the work, and kept me there until the words flowed into the sea.




Howard A. Rodman is the author of The Great Eastern.