The Role of Music in It’s You

A book extra for It’s You

It’s You is a story of two women and two very different love stories, set in present day Napa and WWII Germany. Both women — 30-year-old Dr. Ali McAdams and 94-year-old Edie Stephens — have loved and lost.

It’s You is told in alternating points of view between the two women, and they are very different women. Ali is a pragmatic, no-nonsense dentist. As a young woman, Edie was a fiercely passionate and idealistic musician. On the surface these women have nothing in common, and so while writing the book, I created three different playlists, one for Ali, one for Edie and then a 3rd playlist, a classical playlist for when I was working on Edie’s diary which covers 1939 to 1944.

Because Edie was studying music—composition & counterpoint—in Germany in the late 1930’s at the outbreak of WWII, it was imperative I get Edie’s world right. I spent months reading and researching the great German composers, German music schools, and the time period itself.

The Classical Playlist

The classical playlist was heavy on the Great German composers like Bach, Beethoven, & Mozart—particularly the piano concertos and sonatas as Edie was an accomplished pianist and she used music to distract herself when interned with the other American staff from the US embassy at Bad Nauheim.

  • Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G – Bach
  • Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major – Bach
  • Violin Concerto No 2 in E – Bach
  • Piano Concerto No. 19 in F Major –  Mozart
  • Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major – Mozart
  • Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat Major – Beethoven
  • Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Flat Major – Beethoven
  • Piano Sonatas No 1-11 – Beethoven
Edie’s Playlist:
  • Mad World – Gary Jules
  • Glitter in the Air – Pink
  • Like a Prayer – Madonna
  • Lift Me Up – Christina Aguilera
  • Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour) – Jay-Z, Bono, The Edge & Rhianna
  • Skyfall – Adele
  • Wild Horses
  • Not Ready to Make Nice – Dixie Chicks
  • And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going – Jennifer Hudson
Ali’s Playlist
  • Skinny Love – Bon Iver
  • Where I Stood – Missy Higgins
  • Someone Like You – Adele
  • Only You – Sinead O’Connor
  • Without You – David Guetta & Usher
  • Invisible Ink – Aimee Mann
  • The Other Side – David Gray
  • Love is Everything – k.d. lang
  • Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve

To me its very telling, these playlists. While in Germany, Edie fell in love with a young Nazi officer. She was supposed to leave Germany once America declared war on Germany. But she didn’t. Which is why Edie’s playlist is filled with songs like Skyfall, Wild Horses, Not Ready to Make Nice, And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going. These are songs of a strong woman, an independent woman, and that is who Edie was, and still is. She is very flawed, but fierce, which makes her the perfect foil for Ali who needs to find herself again.

At the beginning of It’s You, Ali McAdams is lost. She’s angry, empty, and confused. Her playlist is softer, evocative, filled with aching poignancy. Her playlist, with songs such as Someone Like You, Without You, The Other Side, and Love is Everything, reflect Ali’s love for Andrew, and her profound grief that he is gone.

I can’t speak for all writers, but I find playlists hugely helpful in the creative process. They allow the mind and imagination to go deeper, accessing ideas, words and images that I might not get if I wasn’t responding emotionally to music.

And Edie is the same. My wonderfully prickly 94 year old Edie Stephens would have never been herself without her music.

I think Edie sums it best in this diary entry from January 15, 1942:

I played Beethoven’s Sonata 14, closing my eyes, closing my mind and heart to everything but the music and my love for Mother and Father and how they always dreamed of more for me.

They wanted to give me the world. Indeed they did. Am I not here in Germany? Did I not come for my music? So here I am, here I am…

I play for my mother who wanted to be a composer and conductor.

I play for my father who wanted to be more than a consular.

I play for my sister who is young and dreams of being a great writer.

I play for my F. who know how much I love my music and yet music is not enough if one has no freedom, much less freedom of expression.

I play for all those caught in the chaos and war.

I play because it is all I can do.