The Music Score

Posted: October 27, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

I have started writing this at a pretty silly hour whilst listening to Ennio Morricone’s A Fistful of Film Music, which compiles pretty much everything you’ve ever heard of that he’s done. There is plenty of pure and utter genius on here, which will happily keep you inspired for just about anything you want to be getting on with. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is as seminal a title track as it is a movie, for example. Need a character so utterly consumed by the desire for revenge that their very soundtrack tells you someone is going to die by the time the music stops? I would point you towards Man With A Harmonica without any question. And perhaps you were stuck looking for something dramatic, quite possibly tear-jerking and certainly with a hint of slow-mo? Chi Mai. It’s a tune you probably know better than you think you do from the name.

Classic movie soundtracks are just that for a reason. They often seep so deeply into our popular culture that you’ve heard the tune several times without necessarily having the first clue which film it was originally from. As a Brit, though Chi Mai was originally written for The Professional (NOT to be confused with The Professionals), what it’s known better for over here is The Life And Times of David Lloyd George. That was in 1981. I was four years old at the time. But it’s a tune that still reaches into my very soul when I hear it today, just as I used to hear it on TV adverts when I was little and wondering what it was all about. Turns out I probably know it because it was a major hit in the charts back then too – back when I used to keep track of the Top 40 whether I wanted to or not.

Right up there with Morricone on the classics is Lalo Schifrin. Now his stuff is just everywhere. Mission Impossible – Schifrin. Bullitt – Schifrin again. Cool Hand Luke, Enter The Dragon, Dirty Harry, Starsky and Hutch, even the Rush Hour films, man. You’ve been near a TV in the last three decades, the chances are you’ve heard something by Schifrin, even if you didn’t know it at the time. And again, there is stuff there that just imprints deeper than the memory when you are thinking of a tune for an appropriate time.

Of course, this also probably gives a useful sketch of exactly what I was growing up around as well. I’m sure there’s a reasonable viewing list right there to go with a chunky box of popcorn if you’re needing to kill some time in a good way. But the reason I started writing this post was entirely to do with what I enjoy listening to whilst trying to decide whether a character I’m writing about at the time desperately needs to get out of an awkward love scene, ponder a sprint around the streets of London, or just get on with kicking an enemy’s head in.

Now another snippet about me – I enjoy tabletop roleplaying games. Dungeons and Dragons, World of Darkness, that sort of thing. This brings up the opportunity for storytelling, and when I’m running a game, I find it good to, if I have the time, sort out a soundtrack to go with what we are doing, where we are and what to expect. You know – a little mood music. My friends are very much the same. Wizards running around 12th Century France work quite well with Medieval Baebes and Clannad, or the odd Gregorian chant thrumming in the background as we rescue another town from pillage. Vampires, once the subject of many a Goth anthem, now enjoy all kinds of stuff as they sparkle along their merry way. But you know you want something thumping and suitably pacy when your character is on the wing of an aircraft in the absence of availability of a certain Mr Bond and this fight comes down to you – or the villain intent on wiping out a densely-populated city for no decent reason other than making a point. Adrenaline tunes. Some Chemical Brothers, a little Fluke, and even a bit of New Order if you’re going vampire hunting. Seriously.

The same thing definitely applies when I’m writing. I found myself getting through a lot of pretty tricky scenes just from having the right noise going on around me. Try either version of Dead Souls when doing a rooftop chase (I think of it as the Joy Division original snarls out of my laptop even now). My ‘finished’ novel draft, Misery’s Tear, was powered by a quite varied soundtrack I’d love to see make it to the movie version that’ll probably remain the sole property of the workings of my brain forever, but because I’ve been meaning to for months, I shall run through it below. So if you ever get to read the thing, you’ll know exactly what I was listening to and when. Mostly.

The Misery’s Tear music score in my head went in a few directions, as did the draft. I started out with the main character, Rose, an offshoot from my university project, and had the premise of a near-death experience elaborating into someone with the raw supernatural ability to manipulate unsettled souls, and the grey area (well, it’s many shades of darkness to those who can perceive it through eyesight) between death and ‘moving on’. What I’ve ended up with is an adventure introduced by a ghost who my test readers really liked (and I really enjoyed writing). From here, I realised I needed to tell her story just as much as Rose’s – and that in fact her story had become Rose’s too! After all, if our main protagonist doesn’t accept her mission as it were, I suddenly find myself with no story…

By the time I’d finished Misery’s Tear though, I actually found that I could very easily have written a second novel just for the ghost – whose name is Tally incidentally. I’ve had to abridge her tale with more exposition because it wasn’t intended to be about her, but rather, all about Rose.

And hence, the story certainly starts with Rose. The first scene involving any action was initially influenced by The Prodigy’s Break And Enter I think, although subsequent drafts replaced that in in my head with newer songs in their discography. However, Rose is very much a Pendulum kind of girl. In Silico is one of my favourite albums, and two tracks on it stand out in particular to me, certainly for my writing time. Propane Nightmares is like a signature tune for her. The lyrics always hit me as perfect for her – or at the very least, several lines within it. I’ve no idea what the band intended with them, but it’s her song, of this I have no doubt. She is willing of mind, souls come up a lot – and knowing which woman can and cannot be saved (and what from) is pretty central to the tale.

On that very same album, a song from the same band, but not for Rose as much as her rescuer and new friend. Watch the official video for Showdown and add a little supernatural strength and speed to the equation, and there’s almost the scene I was aiming for right there. Though in a hospital. I am going to revisit this song and that statement in the follow up story to Misery’s Tear, which I plan to bring into a more solid experience over the course of this year’s NaNoWriMo. The scene I have scripted is also far more appropriate for this one.

Finally from Pendulum,  there is a point on The Tempest, aptly the last track on the album, which I just relate to that character’s ultimate demonstration of arguably her most powerful ability. No lyrics to refer to this time – just a break in the song at around the 5 minutes 15 mark which lead into something magic on the track. Again, a bit of a movie moment in my head.

There are others, but that kind of covers Rose’s involvement in the faster-paced sections of the story. Tally’s soundtrack is obviously very different. Now a little reading around brought me to the attention of a fellow who has stuck music sets on a wonderful little website called Soundcloud. Her story is not an entirely happy one, as might be expected, for it is often the case that a ghost is hanging around for the reason of unfinished business – and it’s not a huge spoiler to tell you that again rings true for Tally. Now, there is a chap called Markabre on this site who frankly puts together an awesome set, covering anachronistic beats, and tunes of a Balkan flavour. The set called The Wirewalker’s Wake is a great deal slower-paced than those I have listened to thus far, but my goodness, it is wonderful. I wanted sombre listening for her sections, and this just fits the bill perfectly. I can’t name the individual tracks because I don’t have them, but believe me when I say it is some listen.

For now, I have nothing more to say on this, but as you can see, music is always an experience dear to my heart. So don’t be too surprised if I revisit the topic some time.

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