A Family Affair
When A Theatre for Dreamers was first published in the U.K. last spring, the pandemic thwarted plans to have a professional narrator for the audiobook. So Samson recorded it herself, with the encouragement of her husband. That supportive spouse happens to be David Gilmour, the guitarist and colead vocalist of the fabled rock band Pink Floyd, now a solo artist.
Their collaboration resulted in “Yes, I Have Ghosts,” Gilmour’s first new song in five years. The single, which plays at the end of the audiobook, springs from a moment in the story when a character muses “about people who are not actually dead but who haunt us in a way that a ghost might.” As Samson wrote the line in the novel, “it was one of those very strange moments when I sort of felt a prickling of my skin,” so she jotted it on a Post-it and, after finishing the book’s first draft, began working on lyrics. (Samson is also an accomplished lyricist and has been writing with Gilmour since the 1994 Pink Floyd album The Division Bell.) The resulting song features Romany, 19, youngest of the couple’s four children, playing the harp and contributing ethereal harmony vocals, and feels akin to something Cohen himself might have written.
“Without wanting to copy or even particularly [pay] homage,” Gilmour tells me of the audiobook score and new single, “I just was inspired by what I was hearing in Greece, and of course Polly was only playing Leonard Cohen during those months [and] years!”
“He’s a brilliant guitar player, in fact,” the musician says of Cohen’s distinctive finger-picking style, which is high praise from the man who’s ranked No.14 on Rolling
Stone’s list of best guitarists of all time. “It’s been very, very difficult to do, but I can do a bit of it.” He primarily used a nylon-string Córdoba guitar, as well as a 12-string, fretless Turkish guitar and a mandolin. “These are the sort of sounds that you hear in Greek music, so I added on a little bit of that to add to the flavour of what’s happening.”
Gilmour composed bridges of music between chapters that capture the mood of the story. Where Charmian Clift is thinking about space and infinity, for example, “I wrote a little spacey piece of music, which is not very Greek or Leonard Cohen at all, but it seems to fit that spot in the book.”