Musical Obsessions and Wondering What Happens Now

I admit, I have an obsessive personality.  When I find new tv shows I really like, I obsess over them (just a few of which include: Stargate, Star Trek, Criminal Minds, In Plain Sight, and Fringe).  When I find new foods I like, I get addictive pretty quickly (like my grilled ham-n-cheese with havarti, grilled onion, and green apple – I can’t get enough of it!).  And when I find new music I love, I sometimes can’t stop listening for days.  It gets pretty bad sometimes.

For instance, last week I discovered Irish alt-rock band Snow Patrol.  I’d heard of them before, but I’d never actually listened to any of their music until last week.  Their album A Hundred Million Suns is fantastic.  And I have literally had the album on repeat on my itunes non-stop since last Thursday.  Yes, LAST THURSDAY.  NON-STOP.  I told you I got it bad.  However, it was their song “The Lightning Strike” that really got me (it’s now one of my new favorite songs).  It’s a 3-part song, like 3 different songs strung together, making it almost 17 minutes long.  However, my favorite is Part 1: What If This Storm Ends?, which is the part I’ve included here:

As I was listening, I discovered that “The Lightning Strike” was also a near-perfect song for my WIP Midnight’s Knife.  That was the only song I listened to as I wrote the last chapter last Saturday.  Over, and over, and over again.  And now, though I’m currently taking a little break from that WIP before beginning the long process of revisions, I still can’t stop listening to this album.  I keep wondering what will happen if I keep listening to this.  Another part of me wonders what’s going to happen when I start revising.  Maybe my head will explode?  Maybe I should find something new to listen to?  Or maybe it’ll keep me moving through the revision process?  Or all of the above?

‘Cause seriously, I listen to it while doing EVERYTHING – cleaning house, writing, reading, sleeping.  And it has kept me moving through quite a busy week.  And it HAS been busy, despite the fact that I haven’t written as much this week.

So, what HAVE I been up to this week?  Well, as I mentioned, I’ve started a new short story.  I haven’t put much energy into a short story in a very long time – I’m definitely more of a novel-writing person, every idea I have generally turns into a huge, long, involved story.  But I think I can keep this one down to short story, or at least novelette length.  It’s about a woman whose best friend has disappeared off the face of the earth without a single physical trace – except that people keep reporting seeing her in random places all over the country: on the side of the road, in parking lots, standing on the shore of a lake.  So the woman begins to dig through her friend’s possessions – letters, journals, photographs, etc – in hopes of discovering what might have happened (though she fears her friend may have committed suicide, as she’d always had problems with depression).  My thinking is that this story will probably classify as magical realism.  However, it is a very internal story, mainly focusing on the woman’s attempts to deal with her friend’s disappearance.  I just hope it isn’t SO internal as to be too slow.  I suppose we shall see.

image from Angela Write Now

I have also been recruited to edit my friend Angela Kulig’s manuscript: Pigments of My Imagination (which has an AWESOME cover, by the way).  The story is a YA fantasy/paranormal romance dealing with magical paintings and past lives, and Angela is preparing to release it as in ebook at the end of the month.  Unfortunately, the pro editor she hired bailed on her at the last second (and I think she should release his name so the rest of us know to avoid him), so I agreed to do the final edit for her.  And let me tell you, I am SO GLAD I DID! Because the story is WONDERFUL so far.  I’m about a third of the way through it, and impatiently waiting for Angela to send me the next section.  I want to know what happens next!  Seriously, I highly recommend this book and I will keep you updated when Angela has actually released it.  In the mean time, you should definitely go check out her blog: Angela Write Now.

(I wonder if I can count an unpublished, but completed, manuscript as one of my #ToBeReMo books…?)

I’ve also been crazy-busy with family and personal stuff.  But you know, that stuff is boring to talk about unless you’re prepared for my whining, so I’ll just move on.

So here’s something I’m curious about: does anyone else ever get completely obsessed with an album and play it non-stop for days or weeks?  Or is that just me?  What songs or albums stick in your head like that?  And which ones keep you moving throughout the day?  Also, is an obsessive personality common among writers? I’ve met a couple who are similar to me in that way, but was that just a coincidence?

Oh! And because I was dumb and posted a couple questions in a blog that was otherwise devoted to a book review, I didn’t many answers, so I’ll ask again: 1) Would anyone be interested in me posting some excerpts from my WIP Midnight’s Knife, or would I just be shooting myself in the foot?  2) Can anyone suggest any books or articles about writing summaries/synopses, and queries?  ‘Cause I know NOTHING on the subject.

Poetry By Way of Apology, and Do Lyrics Count?

First off, my apologies for the lateness of this post.  I spent the day at a symposium on Feminist Pedagogies: Interdisciplinarity, Transnational Practices, and Production of Knowledge.  Two of my favorite things in academics are feminist theory and pedagogical theory, so I was really looking forward to the talks.  It was highly enjoyable, extremely enlightening and informative, and very very exhausting.  I am always amazed how tired I can get when essentially all I’m doing is sitting around listening to people talk.  But it is extremely mentally draining.

Anyway, I had hoped to get a post up last night, or early this morning.  But as you can see, neither of those things happened.  So, by way of apology I am offering up another one of my poems as a sacrifice, as well as one of my favorite poems by a brilliant poet.

First, here’s one of my poems.  I’m not going to go into any background on this one, except to say that it was written in 2007, and is one of the few I’ve written that is essentially the same from first draft to end result, except for a few words here or there.

“Death Wish”

angry screaming over pounding bass

guitars screeching through a million notes

that is how your life has always been

riding whining motorcycles

hair catching the wind in a golden net

fierce eyes gleaming silver in the sun

as you grin, playing chicken with Death

cling to your smiling nonchalance

wield your flashing knives and razor tongue

kneel and kiss their barren graves –

the family that you couldn’t keep –

and wonder why you never cry

but don’t tell a soul that you’re bleeding

search for answers in half-smoked cigarettes

and empty bottles of tequila

in the end, Life’s a vindictive bitch

and you laugh and dare her to prove you wrong

and as the jello shots and cigarettes

fade from your blood, and your sleek, fast bikes

weigh down your wings more than they set you free

you yearn more than ever to feel

the earth fall away beneath you

weep then at their bitter graves

for the first and only time

and smile for the taste of Death is sweet

a high cliff on the blue horizon

is attractive to a troubled soul

go ahead and jump…  I’ll bet you can fly

And now, a poem by a brilliant poet, one of my favorites.  I’ll tell you who it is after you read it (though some of you, no doubt, will know right away).

“Famous Blue Raincoat”

It’s four in the morning, the end of December

I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better

New York is cold but I like where I’m living

There’s music on Clinton street all through the evening

/

I hear that you’re building your little house

Deep in the desert

You’re living for nothing now

I hope you’re keeping some kind of record

/

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair

She said that you gave it to her

That night that you planned to go clear

Did you ever go clear?

/

Ah, the last time we saw you, you looked so much older

Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder

You’d been to the station to meet every train

And you came home without Lili Marlene

/

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life

And when she came back she was nobody’s wife

Well, I see you there with the rose in your teeth

One more thin gypsy thief

Well, I see Jane’s awake, she sends her regards

/

And what can I tell you, my brother, my killer

What can I possibly say?

I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you

I’m glad you stood in my way

/

If you ever come by here for Jane or for me

Well, your enemy is sleeping and his woman is free

Yes, and thanks for the trouble you took from her eyes

I thought it was there for good, so I never tried

/

And Jane came by with a lock of your hair

She said that you gave it to her

That night that you planned to go clear

So, yes, for those who knew and those who didn’t, this “poem” is actually a song by Leonard Cohen.  On top of the many albums he’s produced, he’s published books of poetry, which include many of his songs as well as poetry written strictly AS poetry.  As I mentioned once before, songs – at least SOME songs – definitely count as poetry.  Some of it is, in fact, extremely beautiful and powerful poetry.  And Leonard Cohen is an absolutely brilliant poet, whether he’s writing strict poetry or music.  I highly suggest going online and just looking at some of his other songs/poetry.  Everything he writes is gold.

So, do you think songs count as poetry?  What musicians/song-writers do think of as poets?  Any particular song/poems you’d like to share?

Writerly Habits 2: The Playlists Keep Coming (or the marriage of music and writing)

(I had this post all done and ready to go last night, so all I’d have to do in the morning was press ‘Publish.’  And then I forgot to.  Can you say “fail”? Oh well, anyway, enjoy.)

Here’s a habit I’ve noticed to be fairly common among writers: the use of music to help focus, inspire, associate with specific scenes or characters, etc.  I’ve been known to do this, and many of my writerly friends do the same.  When I was in high school I used to create playlists for different stories; sometimes I’d have entire playlists just for one or two main characters.  These playlist got… interesting… to say the least.  I look back at some of them now, and I’m not really sure what I was thinking.  However, it still holds true that I absolutely have to have music playing to write effectively.

It really is just the perfect marriage of arts: music and writing, together forever.

I’ve learned through experimentation which artists/albums/genres will distract me, cutting through my thoughts so that all I can think about are the lyrics or melodies I’m listen to, and which ones will create a background.  I think of this background like a wall of sound that helps to block out unwanted noises and thoughts and keeps me focused on the task at hand – a little like blinders on a horse.  For such purposes I’ve found that Vivaldi and Bach are fantastic.  I also tend to listen to the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack quite a lot it, because its energetic and invigorating without being distracting (and completely awesome).

I also still associate certain genres or artists with certain stories or scenes.  For instance, one of my WIPs is a high fantasy with dark overtones and a strong, somber female main character.  While working on this story, I tend to listen to female-fronted metal bands: Within Temptation, Nightwish, Flyleaf, Evanescence.  And for a few scenes, I find that Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor is the PERFECT soundtrack.  For another one of my WIPs, an urban fantasy about a demon hunter, I listen to The Killers (let me admit right now, I’m not entirely sure HOW The Killers became associated with this story, it doesn’t make much sense when I think about it, but there ya go…).

Those are just a few examples to give you some idea how my mind works.  But I’d love to hear what others listen to.  Specific artists or songs?  Do you make playlists?  Do you look for music that is quiet and good for background music, rather than songs that are associated with stories or characters?  All of the above?

Inquiring minds want to know!

(Also, I am ALWAYS on the look out for new music suggestions.  I am VORACIOUS when it comes to music, and I’ll listen to almost any genre.  Send them my way!)

Distant Worlds; or Geek’s Night at the Symphony

 

On Saturday night, my mother, my brother, and I attended the Houston Symphony’s performance of “Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy.”  The performance was conducted by Arnie Roth, one of the collaborators and producers of the Final Fantasy music.  Amazingly, Nobuo Uematsu, the composer of almost every Final Fantasy song ever written, was in attendance to watch the performance and answer questions at the end.

It was a spectacular performance and an extremely enjoyable evening.  Arnie Roth was an energetic and entertaining conductor who, despite forgetting the song order at one point, was a true enthusiast of Uematsu’s music.  This was my first experience with the Houston Symphony, and they proved to be clear and powerful performers, despite the somewhat small size of the symphony as a whole.  And the Houston Chorus was especially (and surprisingly) good.  There are some very very fine voices in the chorus.  The arrangements of the music were, for the most part, exactly as someone familiar with the Final Fantasy music would expect them to.

They opened with Prelude, of course, and then moved seamlessly into Liberi Fatali (VIII) – one of my personal favorites, and a particularly good show piece for the chorus.  A few of the other highlights were To Zanarkand (X), Man With the Machine Gun (VIII), and Bombing Mission (VII).  Two weaker songs, in my opinion, were:  Distant Worlds, from FF XI, which was marred somewhat by soloist, Cassandra Black, who appeared very hesitant and weak-voiced during the song, and Dear Friends (V), for which the guitar soloist, while competent, was continually drowned out by the rest of the symphony and made his entrances with considerable hesitance as well.   I was thankful to see Cassandra Black re-emerge later in the concert to sing the part of Maria in the Opera from FF VI and prove that she was in fact a very fine soprano when singing opera, which must obviously be her natural habitat (of sorts), unlike the more pop-ish Distant Worlds.

Perhaps the biggest treat of the concert was the inclusion of three “firsts” for Final Fantasy fans.  While FF XIII has been out for a few months, we were witness to the first orchestral arrangement of the music from that game, which included The Promise and Fang’s Theme (a extra-special treat for me, as Fang is one of my favorite characters).  We were also the first to hear the new orchestral arrangement of J-E-N-O-V-A from FF VII.  As the original song as entirely electronic, I was curious to hear what they would do with an orchestral arrangement.  And it was fantastic.  It was true to the general sound and feel of the original song, while being entirely fit for orchestra instruments, and the Houston Symphony performed it admirably.  The last big treat was a sneak-peek of both video and music from the upcoming game, Final Fantasy XIV.  The video looks promisingly intricate, and the music (though we received only a small sampling) seems to be on par with the rest of Uematsu’s amazing work.

However, even these treats could not quite compare to the second encore.  It came as a surprise to no one that there would be a second encore, because one particular song that everyone was anxiously expecting had not yet been performed.  It was a huge surprise, however, when Nobuo Uematsu himself came on stage to sing with the chorus for this particular song.  This song was, of course, One-Winged Angel, theme song of perhaps the most iconic character in Final Fantasy – Sephiroth.

Only one thing really marred the experience, though it was an expected drawback.  And that was the number of anime geeks who arrived as if they thought they were attending an anime convention.  Now, I am a geek, and I have no problems admitting it.  But I firmly believe it is possible to be a geek without being completely socially-inept, devoid of common courtesy, or an idiot.  Being fanatically obsessed with Final Fantasy does not excuse people from being shameless, rude, or inappropriate.  And they were not, in fact, attending a comic-con, but the Houston SYMPHONY.  And they should have behaved in a way fitting to the setting.  In other words, not running around in costumes and clown make-up (yes, some were actually in clown makeup) acting like spoiled, obnoxious children who have no social skills whatsoever (this is true for 16 year old kids all the way up to particularly scary geeks in their late 40s).  My brother is particularly short-tempered with such people, and I was half-afraid he would actually hit someone a few times.  But thankfully, once of the concert started, we were able to ignore them for the most part.  Except for the one seated next to me, who very obviously needed a shower.

Despite that single annoyance, the concert was beautiful, powerful, and exciting.  Everything I have come to expect from the great Nobuo Uematsu and anyone who works with him.