Brow Beat

Nicholson Baker Records a Protest Song

Nicholson Baker

Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, Nicholson Baker, the acclaimed author of several works of fiction and nonfiction, uploaded his first YouTube video. It’s a recording of “Jeju Island Song,” which Baker wrote as a plea to stop the construction of a military base in Gangjeong, a village on the island, which is home to one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

“They’re building a military base in a beautiful place I’ve never been,” Baker sings over a few chords on the piano. “It’s on an island in the East China Sea. It’s Jeju Island, island of peace.”


The base has attracted criticism both at home and abroad, as the New York Times reported earlier this week. Those opposed to its construction argue that South Korea is building the base under pressure from the United States military, which, they say, wants to send a message to China about its might and readiness. Baker added a link to the Times piece below the video, and another to a petition aimed at halting construction.

Baker studied briefly at the Eastman School of Music when he was younger, and while there “also got a few jobs as the fourth bassoonist of the Rochester Philharmonic,” as he told Sam Anderson in the Paris Review. In that same interview, Anderson suggested that “the unifying element” in his work is “an instinct for preservation.” Baker replied: “Absolutely.”