In his own words, here is Russell Smith’s Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection Confidence:
Confidence is a suite of stories set in a large North American city (it looks like Toronto but it could be a few others too). The people in the stories tend to be educated. They are universally anxious and distracted, and yet also often struck by intimations of poignancy or pangs of yearning. I think their mood is best illustrated by modernist music: sophisticated, witty, but agitated, nervous, with moments of clanging dissonance.
If I’m not listening to this while writing, I tend to listen to minimal techno music – quite hard stuff, mostly – because it blocks the noise of coffee-shop or neighbourly stereo without the distraction of singing and words. Its repetitiveness is a kind of silence, as is white noise. Besides, I just love techno and industrial and used to go to dark clubs and do ecstasy; I loved the otherworldliness of the experience, and I still do an all-nighter about once a year. I DJ myself, in my basement, and put my menacing one-hour mixes online for Europeans to listen to. (Canadians do not like it much.) I don’t listen to any other kind of popular music.
So here are some pieces of music that I think best illuminate the mood of the modern city, and my own esthetic preferences. If I had a theme song, it would be one of these: