Book of Man (πατήστε εδώ για Ελληνικά)
We discovered Rob Marr and the Book of Man, this wonderful multidisciplinary artistic project, which includes narratives, music and animation from the instagram of actor, BAFTA winner and Book of Man narrator Josh O’Connor. We approached Rob and asked him if he could grant us a tiny peak into this six-year-old process . Here is the result. The creator’s thoughts are presented in italics.
**The photographic material mostly comes from the website of Rob Marr. Josh O’Connor’s photograph comes from his twitterfeed.”
Book of Man is a three-part drama-musical-podacst, an art project by author, musician and public health consultant Rob Marr, narrated by BAFTA winner Josh O’Connor.
Book of Man is a three-part drama-musical-podacst, an art project by author, musician and public health consultant Rob Marr. The Book of Man takes an innovative approach to the podcast medium by combining 12 short dramatized stories with original melodies. The stories, narrated by BAFTA winner and on his last pit stop before reaching mega stardom, Josh O’Connor (God’s own country, Emma, The Crown), go back more than 100 years in the history of a family and are interwoven with the melodies, composed and performed by creator Rob Marr, in depicting key moments of the drama.
Titles / Narratives – Songs
In the Beginning (Berries) – Berries
Counting – When I was a Boy
Seduction – Window of Opportunity
Young Man and Manhood – Pocket
Advice – Perfectly Obvious
Things Fall Apart- Rock the Boat
Survive the Savage Sea – Toe in the Water
Book of Man – Bleak Midwinter
“Yes” – High Viz Vest
Weight – Death and Comfort
My Two Dads – Paper
- And so on and then so on…
Το Book of Man, intertwines the tragic history of four generations of the fathers and sons of the author’s family with original songs, creating a truly immersive story telling experience. For the creation of the narrative part, the author’s influences were many and varied, from well known novelists, to English history. As Rob puts it “influences for writing prose are people like Annie Proulx (she writes amazing short stories as well as monster novels like Barkskins), John Le Carre and many many others. I hoover up novels but have recently started reading some history too, such as Peter Ackroyd’s History of England Part 1. I finished it and immediately started reading it again, it’s fascinating.”
Its themes of vulnerability, death and partial redemption are particularly relevant to our COVID-affected age, where small actions can have huge consequences, lasting generations.
Its themes of vulnerability, death and partial redemption are particularly relevant to our COVID-affected age, where small actions can have huge consequences, lasting generations: an army doctor beguiled into fathering an unwanted child (Window of Opportunity); a man offering a second, romantic proposal as counterweight to his first clumsy attempt (Pocket); the internal monologue of an elderly man training for a half-marathon, circumnavigating his village in ancient, unbranded trainers (High-Viz Vest); and the devastating Death and Comfort, as the author buries his own father. This last song – recorded with a single microphone in one take – is truly a song for our times, an unflinching, tender, sumptuously lo-fi goodbye to a much-loved father and husband. A key theme of Book of Man, as Rob puts it, is how people wrestle with a problematic inheritance, in this case from father to son, but also more broadly. His hope is that this has resonance across cultures and countries. It’s been very exciting for him to see (from the podcast stats) people listening across the world!-.
A key theme of Book of Man, as Rob puts it, is how people wrestle with a problematic inheritance, in this case from father to son, but also more broadly.
The music we are encountered with while listening to the Book of Man, subverts genres the Enlgish way or maybe to be more precise the Rob Marr way, – with subtlety, utterly natural yet completely decisive- . Musical, classical, pop, progressive rock, hip hop, folk, Brit-pop, Rob Marr truly has a very rich palette and a knack for intertwining staff. Sometimes if you listen closely enough you might find a splash of Thom York, or The Beatles or Bill Evans or a little Soft Machine or Peter Hammil even. In his own words :”My musical influences include jazz pianist Brad Meldau (I wish I could play like him), UK hip hop artist Little Simz, Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After all these Years (Night Game is my all-time favourite) and loads of other stuff, some of which is on the Book of Man playlist. I’ve been a Stevie Wonder fan for years and I find his musical skill and ability as a multi instrumentalist very inspiring”.
The music we are encountered with while listening to the Book of Man, subverts genres the Enlgish way or maybe to be more precise the Rob Marr way
The music – without the accompanying narrative – is also being released as Marr’s third studio album, under the same name as the podcast. His previous record, Anatomy – a two-hander with drumming legend Andy Newmark – received multiple plays on BBC 6 Music from Tom Robinson and Cerys Matthews. Cerys called the lead single, “an astonishing, fantastic piece of music”. The first single “Death and Comfort” is presented below.
Rob Marr collaborated with Kim Noce & Nica Harrison to create an excellent animation for the first story of Book of Man, In the Beginning (Berries) and which was an official selection by IFF 2020. Kim Noce created the animation for the narrative and Nica Harrison for the melody.
You also have to be humble, as for all the wonderful collaborators I’ve had, there are many people who’ve not wanted to be involved.
Rob Marr‘s collaborations on all levels, music, animation, narrative come to pass in a very simple way. He describes it as: “I’ve felt massively blessed with my collaborators. I work a lot on my own, so I really relish the chance to bring in other people’s creativity. They’ve usually come to pass because I know someone who knows someone, and just putting a piece of work out there (like Book of Man, or songs for a previous album) brings in people’s interest. You also have to be humble, as for all the wonderful collaborators I’ve had, there are many people who’ve not wanted to be involved.
Rob archived the general adventure of creating the Book of Man in a series of posts via his Instagram, which deserves a separate article on its own merits, coming very very soon.
Rob Marr Bio
Writer, musician and NHS public health consultant Rob Marr is known for penning piano-led, thought-provoking songs about everyday life that captivate listeners and pull them into a world all of his own making.
His first album, Domestic Dramas, was made for £2,000 in a disused radio station in New Cross, London. That record led to a spot at a Tom Robinson-curated BBC 6 Music night, playing with Gorillaz bassist Al Mobbs and singer/songwriter drumming legend Andy Newmark (Sly and the Family Stone, John Lennon). A few weeks later Andy emailed Rob to ask when they were going to record an album. Anatomy was the result, a beautifully crafted record that saw Rob’s classic English song writing underpinned by Andy’s heavy, New York grooves. Anatomy had multiple plays on Tom Robinson and Cerys Matthews’ BBC 6 Music shows; Cerys called the lead single, Fencebuilding, “an astonishing, fantastic piece of music”. After London gigs with English session heavyweights Chris Spedding and Jim Leverton, Rob toured Europe before returning home to begin work on his latest and third studio album, Book of Man.